'Swatting' plagues law enforcement agencies

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-09 18:40:12-05

TULSA – Law enforcement agencies across the nation are battling a deadly phenomenon called ‘swatting.’

Dep. Justin Green with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said, “They will call using a spoof phone number a law enforcement agency and call in a fake threat, someone’s being held hostage or something of that nature, to try and get the SWAT team to respond.”

It’s a situation that turned deadly in Wichita, Kansas when police received a call from a man saying he shot his father and was holding two relatives hostage.

But there was no such emergency. 28-year-old Andrew Finch, a father of two, opened the door and was met with gunfire after ignoring orders to keep his hands up.

Sgt. Shane Tuell with the Tulsa Police Department said, “They traced that back to who it was who made that phone call and now that person is more than likely going to be charged with some type of a homicide.”

Los Angeles Police in California arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, who was accused of placing the hoax call.

Here in Green Country, law enforcement agencies say they haven’t experienced many ‘swatting’ incidents, but have dealt with a number of bogus calls.

Most recently in December, TPD received a call from a man saying his car was stolen and his two children were in it. Then a bomb threat was called in at a local school. These were merely two distractions while the caller was actually robbing a bank.

Sgt. Tuell explained, “We were able to quickly assess and realize that those were bogus calls and it worked out not in his favor. We ended up catching him very quick. And he’s now going to be charged with those two additional bogus calls.”

He may even get a bill from the city for the officers’ wasted time and fuel. That’s because every call is taken seriously.

Tuell added, “What’s more concerning to us than anything is that we’ve got a large amount of personnel that we’ve sent to this one call that we could be going to other calls and helping our citizens. But someone’s bogus call has just wasted not only our time but has wasted the taxpayers’ money.”

A first responder or patrol deputy is sent to assess the situation to see if the SWAT team is needed.

Dept. Green said, “Typically, we don’t just come out and just bust in a door and go head on into a situation, we’re going to want to verify the intel as best we can from the call that came in.”

However, Green says placing a fake call isn’t a victimless crime, adding, “It’s very high-risk to all those who are involved: the deputies who are there, the civilian who the call has been called out on, any that could be in that home, bystanders who are passing by.”

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