Swatting involves calling authorities to falsely report a crime and provide a made-up address in an attempt to send a SWAT team to the location. The prank occurs commonly within the online gaming community in areas across the country, including New York. In November 2018, a 26-year-old man from California pleaded guilty to charges related to a swatting incident the previous year in which authorities mistakenly shot and killed a man later presumed to be innocent of any crime. A federal court recently sentenced the California man to 20 to 25 years in prison, reportedly the longest sentence imposed to date for similar types of hoaxes.
The incident occurred in December 2017. While playing “Call of Duty” through an online platform, the California man became involved in a disagreement between two other gamers. One of the gamers, located in Ohio, allegedly contacted the California man and requested that he perpetrate a “swat” against the other gamer, based in Wichita, Kansas.
According to authorities, the California man has allegedly committed dozens of similar crimes, though none of the others reportedly resulted in violence. It appears that his reputation proceeded him on the gaming platform because the Wichita gamer allegedly called the California man out upon noticing him tracking his online movements. He reportedly provided the California man with an incorrect Wichita address, daring him to carry out the swat.
The California man allegedly called authorities in Wichita, Kansas, reporting a phony shooting and hostage situation at the address that the Wichita gamer had provided. Law enforcement then converged upon the residence of a 28-year-old father of two with no connection to any of the gamers involved in the swat and no prior knowledge that any such incident could occur. The victim responded to the knock and complied with instructions to raise his hands in the air, but for unknown reasons, he dropped his hands unexpectedly. Under the mistaken impression that he may have been reaching for a weapon, authorities shot and killed him.
The charges against the California man included conspiracy, cyberstalking and making a false report resulting in death. Trials are pending for the other two gamers allegedly involved in instigating the swat.
Though it may seem like harmless fun in the moment, a swatting incident can escalate quickly and result in severe consequences. Those facing charges related to cybercrime may find it helpful to consult an attorney.