KENILWORTH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A prank call that brought a massive response in Union County was the subject of a criminal investigation Monday.
Shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday, someone called 911 and directed law enforcement to a home on Newark Avenue, where they claimed a Kean University student was holding his brother and sister hostage with a pipe bomb.
The call was a hoax, and now investigators want to press charges, as CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
Prank victim Travis Graves was not in the mood to talk to CBS 2 after his time in handcuffs Sunday afternoon.
“At that time we didn’t know if he was a suspect, or a victim,” said Kenilworth Police Chief John Zimmerman, who supervised the scene on Sunday. “Turned out, we believe he’s a victim at this point.”
The prank call brought the Union County SWAT and bomb squads to Graves’ rental home, and forced the evacuation of two dozen neighboring families for more than two hours.
Police said the prank caller claimed to be Graves, and said he was armed with the pipe bomb and holding hostages.
Michael Berezny, Graves’ housemate, described what happened.
“Out of nowhere you get a SWAT team coming, like while he’s just eating a bowl of cereal. He’s just like, ‘What the heck is going on?’” Berezny said. “So it definitely probably freaked him out a little bit.”
Graves was not the only one who was unnerved by the incident.
“It freaked me out, it freaked my family out, it freaked my neighbors out, and when it was just a prank, it just got me mad,” said neighbor Graziana Zito.
The incident now has police vowing to get even.
“They put people’s lives in danger,” Zimmerman said. “This individual in the house who turned out to be a victim could have been hurt.”
Zimmerman said the caller will be found, and will face charges.
Police said the prankster took several steps to make things more difficult for them — placing the phone call over the Internet using Skype and using technology to change his or her voice. Police do not even know if they’re looking for a man or a woman.
Police on Monday were promising an all-out effort to find the person who prompted the all-out response to what seemed to be a legitimate threat.
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