Skip to comments.Emergency Prank Draws Sheriff's Deputies to Unsuspecting Brandon Family (New Prank - 'Swatting')
Posted on 08/20/2011 5:50:10 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Debora Marshall wasn't sure what she was witnessing. She came home from work to find sheriff's cruisers blocking streets in her sleepy Timber Pond subdivision. Deputies with guns drawn and bulletproof vests surrounded her house.
"They had it blocked off at both ends. I thought a murderer was on the loose," she said.
So did the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities thought her son had killed her.
"My son was home and clueless," Marshall said. "I was at work, and all my neighbors thought I was dead."
In what appears to be the first incident of its kind in Hillsborough County, someone falsely and anonymously reported a murder and hostage situation that easily could have drawn a special weapons and tactics team and deadly consequences.
Authorities are still investigating that Aug. 9 bogus call. It has since escalated into a federal case, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter.
The Sheriff's Office learned the report of the fake emergency came from out of state and was filtered through an online service for the deaf instead of coming through the 911 system.
Marshall, 51, said she believes her son is the victim of "swatting" a prank hackers and phone phreakers have used for a decade to draw a SWAT team to the door of an enemy.
"I just don't understand how anyone could do this to someone," she said. "I just thank God because my son could have been killed."
Jonathan Marshall, 21, was home alone as deputies surrounded the house, pushed neighbors inside and blocked access to his subdivision.
He had decided to head over to a neighbor's house and stepped out his front door.
"Get on the ground!" deputies shouted as a stunned Jonathan Marshall saw dozens of guns and rifles pointed in his direction.
He got down. He was cuffed and questioned. Deputies searched for his supposed victims.
The person who reported the emergency said he had killed his mother, had an AK-47, a house full of bombs and a little sister locked in a closet.
Carter said Jonathan Marshall had gotten into an argument with another Microsoft Xbox Live player online.
"This may have been retaliation," she said.
Debora Marshall's neighbors looked at her like she was a ghost as she approached the police tape that afternoon.
Investigators eventually realized the call was a hoax Jonathan Marshall didn't even have a sibling and released him.
He was unharmed, but shook from fear the first time he left home afterward, his mother said.
Neighbors told her in the days afterward how afraid they were during the incident, and how scared they were she was gone.
"We're close-knit," Debora Marshall said. "It was really tense around here. Really tense. We just need to heal and they need to heal."
"Swatters" are out for entertainment, intimidation and revenge, according to the court documents from several convicted pranksters.
From 2002 to 2006, Dallas FBI agents tracked a group of suspected "swatters" who lived all over the country but frequented the same telephone party line.
The FBI said five suspects were responsible for 100 "swatting" calls in 60 cities, with some of the victims in Texas.
The methods of disguise included fake-phone number generating "spoof" cards, hacking phone systems to use someone else's number or using TTY phone services for the deaf.
Several of the now-convicted participants made the false calls to draw SWAT teams to the homes of people more than once. One victim in Victoria, Texas, was "swatted" 12 times.
Most incidents didn't end in violence, only inconvenience for the victim and first responders, according to an FBI fact sheet.
But there were close calls.
In 2007, a California victim heard rustling outside his home and went to check it out after picking up a knife from his kitchen. It was a SWAT team gathering outside. He wasn't injured.
Not every armed suspect a SWAT team is after is so lucky.
Authorities have tried a number of ways to combat a relatively new crime. The results vary.
In the case of the California victim, a teen from Seattle was sentenced to three years in prison for making the false call. The state formally charged the perpetrator with false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, misuse of the Internet and filing a false emergency report.
Those state remedies haven't been tested in Florida.
When Dallas FBI agents took down the ring of swatters, they were all convicted in federal court of conspiracy to use access devices to modify telecommunications instruments and to access protected telecommunications computers. Some of the stiffest penalties were five years in prison and thousands of dollars in restitution.
Without federal communications laws, states have fewer prosecution options.
Making a false 911 call is a first- degree misdemeanor, which carries a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of $1,000, according to Florida statutes.
But even then, if swatters use third-party services and don't call 911 directly, they aren't likely to be charged under that law, the Sheriff's Office's Carter said.
Carter said she hopes jail time served by other "swatters" will serve as a sufficient deterrent.
"There's really nothing you can do (to prevent false alarms) when it comes to the 911 system because we so rarely receive Internet calls," Carter said.
Debora Marshall said whoever made the call about her son did so to harm her family. She wants justice. And she wants peace.
"I'd never heard about anything like this," she said. "But my situation compared to others is pretty darn lucky."
I hope this doesn’t catch on.
These are not pranks as the MSM calls them. They are potential murders by swat. Maybe thats why we had heard so much about bogus swat intrusions lately...Its a dangerous game that deserves jail time...
“Hello Operator? Send a SWAT team to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there’s a madman occupying the building who needs to be removed.”
No argument here. Not only could they cause a death at the prank site, they could be diverting services from an actual crime.
They didn’t shoot the dog?
Someone wasn’t following procedure.
If an emergency call fits a certain pattern that the police will be getting more and more familiar with, they’ll need to ask for the phone number of the person making the call and then call them back for verification before dispatching a response team. It’ll only take and extra 10-20 seconds adn could easily save the life of an innocent person being “swatted”.
Someone wasn’t following procedure.
“Carter said Jonathan Marshall had gotten into an argument with another Microsoft Xbox Live player online.”
A good reason for guarding your real identity at online places like, well, FR.
Sounds like a good way to get somebody killed (accidentally like).
These are not pranks as the MSM calls them.
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Just like the MSM and the way they are handling these ‘flash mobs’— about like they used to call the gangs roaming NY as ‘wilding’ rather than alert the public that predators were roaming the streets. (Of course, if you live there you already knew it)...can’t tell the truth in these incidents, it may hurt tourism....
Any comment on ATT still running that ‘flash mob’ ad?
I personally think it is a stupid ad and definitely do NOT want an official ‘take down’, but I think as a public service ATT should pull the ad, or at least give a disclaimer - like the beer ads use, drink responsibly - but tell the little darlings to use their phones responsibly...
I am surprised bill collectors don’t do something similar if someone is ‘ducking them’. Of course, don’t want to give them or telemarketers any ideas.....
“The FBI said five suspects were responsible for 100 “swatting” calls in 60 cities, with some of the victims in Texas. “
In that case, that’s all the more reason for the police to verify a phoned in report BEFORE they go in busting down doors.
All I see is another excuse for the JackBoots to use. “We didn’t want to shoot Granny, but we got a call from a neighbor and she did have those very sharp knitting needles, so as we say in the biz...it was a good shoot. You got a problem with that?” What’s to keep a ‘roided up JackBoot from phoning in his own fake “situation” for revenge or to silence a witness? This is a very dangerous precedent.
These prosecutors don’t know the law. Once phones or Internet are used, it’s within federal jurisdiction and fed crime laws apply regardless IFC the swatted and swattie are in the same state.
This form of revenge has been around for quite a while.
In the early 1970s, police nationwide were trained with “Old West rules” as far as their behavior and use of guns went. But after a few police assassinations by radicals, the federal government encouraged and offered support to police departments across the US in adopting “SWAT rules”.
These are tactics reliant on police aggression and frequent gun brandishing, even on slight pretext. And, as we are learning today, they are extremely dangerous, both to the public as a whole, and to police in particular, who are frequently harmed by their own weapons because of reckless behavior.
This was exacerbated by the “War on Drugs”, that resulted in so much police aggression, made worse by the RICO statute making drug busts *profitable* for police departments, that SWAT has become a public menace, resulting in numerous incidents of death, casualties and severe trauma to the innocent citizenry.
And, because the actions are so extreme, they became an excellent opportunity for revenge.
For example, an anonymous call to 1-800-COCAINE could almost guarantee a hostile breaking and entering, with more than one police agency breaking down a door, holding the people inside at gunpoint for hours, while they ransacked their dwelling. Such searches often meant that all food containers were dumped, electrical fixtures were torn out, plumbing damaged, inspection holes punched in walls and ceiling, and all personal belongings scattered about.
Based on an anonymous phone call that had elements the police found interesting, like large amounts of drugs and cash.
A marvelous form of revenge that could leave an entire family devastated, caught up in legal red tape for months, and maybe even having their children taken away, while facing thousands of dollars in repair costs, and without any legal recourse that wouldn’t take tens of thousands of dollars and years in court.
With small odds of the hoaxer being caught and punished.
“These are not pranks as the MSM calls them. They are potential murders by swat. “
Short-sheeting someone’s bed is a prank. Filing a false report of a crime in the hopes that the police will arrest or kill one’s victim is not a prank, but a crime.
In fact, the story is probably bs, just cover for the ss.
It’s time for the grown-ups to re-take the world.
Dont tell them he’s an illegal alien. Otherwise the White House will give him a work permit and wont deport him.
That was within the law because it was initiated by a police approved snitch. These unofficial “swatters” have no such authorization.