The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office believes an emergency call that sent deputies to Botany Avenue in Sarasota on Sunday was an incident of “SWATing.”
“SWATing” is a prank phone call to lure law enforcement to a fake emergency situation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies that have investigated similar crimes say the hoax is committed by manipulating computers and phone equipment. Criminals spoof phone systems to make the call appear to originate locally or hack gaming systems such as Xbox LIVE to select victims or send emergency messages over the Internet connection.
In Sunday’s case, the caller said he was a 15-year-old boy who had just shot both of his parents and would kill himself and anyone that came near him because a bomb strapped to his chest was set to go off in minutes. The caller identified himself by first and last name, provided his cell phone number and the Botany Avenue address. Detectives quickly determined the real teen with that name and cell phone number was not responsible for the call and does not live at the incident location. The two men inside the Botany Avenue home have also been cleared in this case.
“How someone can view this as a joke is beyond me,” said Sheriff Tom Knight, in a news release. “While responding to a fake emergency is certainly a waste of our assets, of greater concern to me is the risk to unsuspecting citizens who might find themselves at the wrong end of a weapon because some prankster sent law enforcement to their home.”
The investigation to find the person responsible for this crime is ongoing.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].