A 46-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of falsely reporting an active shooter at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Tuesday then inserting himself into the investigation by alternately claiming to be a security guard and a peace officer, authorities said.
The suspect, Mario Thompson, is also responsible for falsely reporting an active shooter at Mercy Southwest Hospital on Aug. 1, according to police.
But in a jailhouse interview Wednesday night, Thompson said he was not involved.
Thompson was taken into custody after officers determined he made the false report Tuesday afternoon, spurring a massive law enforcement response as police went from room to room looking for a shooter and dozens of other emergency personnel were on standby near the scene.
No evidence of a shooting was found.
Police said Thompson wore a security badge, acted suspiciously and inserted himself into the investigation. He claimed to be a security guard, but hospital security told police he didn't work there and had earlier identified himself as a police officer.
Officers detained Thompson and found he was in possession of a pellet gun, pepper spray and prescription pills.
They determined Thompson is not an employee of the hospital, nor is he a peace officer. He is prohibited from carrying pepper spray, and was found to be illegally in possession of the prescription medications and the pellet gun, police said.
Thompson is being held on charges of possession of a tear gas weapon, possession of a controlled substance, impersonating an officer, false report of an emergency and possession a pellet gun within the city.
He's due to be arraigned Thursday.
Court records show Thompson pleaded no contest to petty theft in 2013, and to robbery in 1991.
The false alert at Memorial led to lockdowns at two nearby schools and closed roadways in the area, but by 5 p.m. the hospital lockdown had been lifted and the facility resumed normal operations around 6:30 p.m.
The response was initiated by a call from within the hospital. At 1:36 p.m., an operator at the hospital received a call from a male within the building who requested the hospital send out an active shooter alert, according to police.
The hospital operator immediately contacted police.
A few minutes later, a second person called the police department, claiming to have heard gunshots coming from a parking lot to the north of the hospital emergency room, according to police. BPD arrived and searched the facility, finding no evidence of a shooting, including no victims.
On Aug. 1, a false report of an active shooter occurred at Mercy Hospital Southwest, resulting in the hospital being put on lockdown for several hours.
Both facilities are owned by Dignity Health.
In the Mercy Hospital Southwest incident, a "code black" — used to initiate an active shooter scenario — was announced after an internal phone call dialed the hospital's emergency hotline.
The staff member who received it followed procedure and made the code black announcement over the intercom. Hospital staff sheltered in place with patients, locking and barricading doors and remaining silent as police searched the facility.
The lockdown was lifted three hours later after no evidence of a shooting was found.