A recent graduate of a special needs high school in Paramus phoned in a pair of bogus reports -- one about an alleged threat at the school by a man with a knife and another that made it seem an active shooter was at the Garden State Plaza, authorities said.
Alex Barrales, 18, of Passaic made both "swatting" calls on the same day -- May 13, Police Capt. Frank Scott said Monday.
Barrales was arrested in Irvington late last week after Paramus Police Detective Joshua Capizzi identified him as the caller in both instances, the captain said.
Barrales, who'd attended Windsor Preparatory High School in Paramus, sent police rushing there last month on a report of someone being threatened with a knife, Scott said.
As officers at the scene determined the report was bogus, their colleagues were converging on the Garden State Plaza following a 911 call "reporting a shooting in progress" at the mall, the captain said.
"The dispatcher could hear several loud bangs in the background initially believed to be gunshots," Scott said.
Police immediately went into an active shooter response, with alerts sent to their colleagues in surrounding towns as well as to a Bergen County Regional SWAT team and the county prosecutor's and sheriff's offices.
They soon learned that the call was as fake as the first.
Barrales was charged with two counts of creating a false public alarm after Irvington police picked him up and turned him over to their Paramus colleagues last Thursday.
He was sent to the Bergen County Jail only to be released by a judge the next day, with conditions, under New Jersey's bail reform law.
Windsor Prep bills itself as a state-approved, nonprofit private school for students with special needs in grades 9 through 12 who "exhibit learning, behavioral, and attention disorders."
"In addition, many of our students are diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and Autism Spectrum Disorder," its website says. "We provide a therapeutic environment to address students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and academic needs."
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