SAN ANGELO, Texas — Two late-night calls about someone getting shot had San Angelo police officers rushing to two homes Thursday night. It turns out, no one had been shot. In fact, officers found that one of the supposed victims was perfectly fine.
Now police are trying to figure out who made the calls and why. The hoax calls are known as 'swatting'. It happens when someone calls 911 to report a shooting or other emergency at an address other than their own. The goal is to get the local police department's SWAT team to respond to the home of the unsuspecting victim.
"You know a SWAT team comes in, and people have lost their life. It's a very, very dangerous thing that people are doing," said Trae Cobern, Chief Information Officer at Technology Pointe in Austin, TX.
San Angelo Police say they first responded to a possible shooting victim at home in the 300 block of Cedar Creek. Officers found the resident in question was unharmed. Shortly after, a second call came in from the same caller. This time, the caller said the shooting had happened at a home in the 3600 block of Shadyhill Drive. Police later determined that both calls were false.
According to the FBI, swatting threats typically start online and often come from those who are involved in the gaming community. The FBI first warned the public of the dangers of swatting in 2008. Today, callers are able to use technology to make it look like the victim is the one who called 9-1-1.
"The best way to prevent it is data privacy. Now more than ever, we give the keys to the kingdom as I say to the internet and to our social media platforms and anything we're doing online," Cobern said.
The FBI suggests making a police report on swatting threats made against you online. Agents often provide resources and guidance in state and local investigations. In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill making swatting a Class A misdemeanor. The punishment will increase if someone is killed during a swatting call. The law takes effect on September 1st.