'Swatting' Shakes Up Two SD Towns
by Breanna Fuss, Reporter
April 28, 2014 10:16 PM
A scary scene played out over the weekend in two eastern South Dakota towns as dozens of officers surrounded homes. But, authorities soon learned it was all a prank.
'Swatting' is when a gamer calls in a threat to police. But there's a twist, the caller pretends to be whomever they just got beat by in the video game. The winners of the game, as well as authorities, eventually find out it’s all a hoax.
Moody County Sheriff Troy Wellman said, "He advised he had killed one of his parents, had three family members as hostages and there was bomb in the house that was wired to the doors."
Those chilling words came in just after 10 o'clock Friday night. Wellman said nearly two dozen officers surrounded a home on the 600 block of 223rd Street in Ward.
"We ended up seeing some movement in the house so we ordered the person out over the PA," Wellman said. "But, it ended up being the grandfather of the alleged caller.”
The officers soon learned the alleged caller got the address wrong when he called in the threat. The 16-year-old actually lives 7 miles north in Elkton.
"We notified Brookings County Sheriff's Office, and went up there to see if they needed any assistance based on the nature of the call," Wellman said.
But just as quick as officers surrounded the home and cuffed a very surprised teen, they learned it was all hoax. ‘Swatting' is essentially a game outside of the video game. It continues the battle to see who is better with the controls. The goal is to get as much law enforcement attention as possible.
"Somebody wasted resources," Wellman said.
He said Friday night's prank call could cost the department up to $1,000. But, money is the least of Wellman's worries.
"They put many lives in danger," he added.
Wellman said while this is the first case of 'swatting' he has heard of in South Dakota, he knows it's quickly becoming a national trend.
He adds the severity and danger of these pranks are no laughing matter.
"My fear is that if somebody is going to be innocently killed," he said.
He airs caution to anyone that games or has an online profile.
"Don't have your address on there, make sure your kids don't put that kind of stuff out there for their screen names on the game," Wellman suggested.
Wellman said they have no way of tracing the hoax call. However if a person is caught, they would be charged with a class one misdemeanor, and possibly other charges due to the false bomb threat.
They could face a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
In California, state legislators passed a law that requires anyone who is caught making a ‘swatting’ call to cover all the expenses of the incident.