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False reports, fears of copycats plague Connecticut after school massacre

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Connecticut State Police tactical team searches a train station near an elementary school in Ridgefield, Conn., Monday. (AP)

Connecticut remained on edge four days after the horrific massacre at an elementary school, with at least one school abruptly closing for the second day in a row after a jittery call to 911, police warning about phony information online and continuing fears of copycat attacks.

Even as Newtown, Conn., buried two more of the youngest victims of Friday's attack at the Sandy Hook School, and other children in the town returned to classes, communities around the Nutmeg State remained on tenterhooks.

“There has been misinformation coming from people posing as the shooter . . . "

- Police Lt. J. Paul Vance

Head O’Meadow Elementary School in Newtown was reportedly closed after officials received yet another threat, which turned out to be unfounded. A day earlier, Ridgefield’s public school system was placed on lockdown after a tipster reported a pedestrian near the Branchville School carrying what appeared to be a rifle. Only after authorities diverted students to another school -- and conducted an intensive search -- was it determined the pedestrian was actually carrying an umbrella. Ridgefield is located about 19 miles from Newtown.

Also on Monday, a student at West Bristol School in Bristol sent an online threat to “shoot up” the school. Parents reportedly received a recorded message from school officials at 5 p.m. notifying them of the incident.

And on Sunday, as congregants grieved inside Newtown's St. Rose of Lima Church for the 27 people slain by gunman Adam Lanza, Mass was evacuated after someone threatened to bomb the house of worship. Police only sounded the all-clear after armed SWAT teams spent an anxious hour searching the church and adjacent buildings. St. Rose remained locked down all day.

Such copycat threats dovetail with misinformation and erroneous reports online and in the media. Police involved with the investigation say the inaccurate information is not helping them conduct their probe.

“There has been misinformation coming from people posing as the shooter in this case, using other IDs, mimicking this crime and crime scene,” Lt. J. Paul Vance said. “It's important to note that we have discussed this with federal authorities. These things are crimes. They will be investigated and prosecuted.”

Even Facebook has reportedly suspended user accounts that question the official narrative behind the Sandy Hook elementary shootings. In one case concerning an image questioning whether “a clumsy 20-year-old autistic kid” could have pulled off 27 murders, Facebook reportedly not only deleted the picture -- but hit the user with a three-day suspension.

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