An Illinois man's accidental "butt dial" to his wife turned into more than just a garbled cell phone call when the wife mistook the call as evidence that her husband was being held hostage.
Police dispatched dozens of personnel to the school where the man worked at around 5 p.m. Monday, sparking fears that a gunman was on the loose at Carleton Washburne School in Winnetka.
"The caller stated she could not get her husband to respond, but she could overhear the muffled sound of his voice," Winnetka police said in a statement. "Based on what she was hearing, she formed a belief that he was being held hostage by a man with a gun in his office."
Police have not revealed the identity of the couple, but they said that the man was driving home from work to his home in Lake County, Ill., when his touch screen phone accidentally dialed his wife's number.
"He was just talking to himself and the way the phone was positioned, it was somewhat muffled. She ... misunderstood him to be under duress," Winnetka Deputy Police Chief Patrick Kreis said.
Police acted on the wife's 911 call, sending 30 police personnel in bulletproof vests and armed with automatic weapons to the school to set up a secure perimeter around the building.
The man's boss, Mark Friedman, said that none of the school's 500 students were in the building at the time, but some teachers and custodial staff were still there.
When Friedman heard a local reporter saying that there was a police presence at the school, he rushed back to work.
"I saw this massive show of police force from multiple jurisdictions, police from surrounding communities," Friedman, co-superintendent of District 36 in Winnetka, said. "The principal said, 'I heard this story of a man with a gun'."
Luckily, it was all a mistake.
"The first indication that it might be a misunderstanding was 30 minutes after police were initially dispatched. ... He arrived home and his wife reported to us via 911 that he arrived home safely," Deputy Police Chief Kreis said.
Still, police stayed on the scene, searching the school for two hours as a precaution.
The man's boss said that he has worked for the school district for six years and is embarrassed by the whole situation.
"He was pretty devastated yesterday. He was so shaken up by all of this. ... He was distraught about it," Friedman said.
Blaring music from the man's radio might be to blame, Friedman said.
"He had the radio up and was listening to lyrics of hip-hop music or something like that, and she heard bits and pieces of it and misinterpreted the lyrics to think that he was in trouble," Friedman said.
The school has turned the incident into a lesson for their students.
"It was a great learning opportunity... to talk to students about cell phones and how important it is to lock it and turn it off and make sure you hear all the facts before jumping to conclusions," Friedman said.