LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police descended upon a Long Island home Tuesday believing a man had shot several relatives inside. It turned out the 911 call they were responding to was a hoax and part of a game called “Swatting” that law enforcement officials say has become a nationwide epidemic.
Police in Long Beach received the call around 3 p.m. from a man saying he had shot members of his family and was threatening to kill others on Laurelton Boulevard, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
Nassau County, Long Beach and MTA police and an ambulance responded with their SWAT teams and hostage negotiators, but when police entered the home, they found everyone inside safe and unharmed.
“Everybody was scared to death,” a neighbor who watched the police response for two hours told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
A 17-year-old boy who was playing the video game “Call of Duty” inside the house was the apparent victim of the prank, Rincon reported. He had been playing against someone else online, police said.
In the game of Swatting, the losers of the video game get back at the winner by faking an emergency call from the winner’s house, Rincon reported.
“In this … bizarre world of Swatting, you get points for the helicopter, for the police cars, for the SWAT team, for the type of entry,” said Michael Tagney, Long Beach police commissioner. “It’s very sophisticated. Unfortunately, it’s very dangerous.”
Investigators are searching for the man who placed the call. The culprit, who made the call using the Internet and could be anywhere in the world, could face criminal charges and have to foot the bill for the massive police response.
“I don’t know why the people called the police,” Maria Castillo, the mother of the video game-playing teen, told Rincon, her voice trembling.
Jose, the boy’s brother, added: “Nobody knew what happened. We just know that police is here. That’s all we knew.”
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