Falsely reporting a crime is itself a crime, and falsely reporting a shooting, a murder or a hostage situation can lead to inadvertent, violent and potentially deadly consequences as law enforcement investigates what it must take seriously as immediate threats to individuals. But such crank calls, called “swatting,” continue. There were a rash of such calls last summer.
There were three more on Sunday, one of them involving a C-Section address previously and repeatedly targeted by such calls. In every case, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies responded as they would to any emergency, scrambling resources, and in every case determined it was swatting.
“Sometimes swatting calls are made to retaliate against someone for whatever reason and sometimes they are completely random,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “The FCSO is made up of a team of highly trained men and women with years of experience who know the appropriate response for calls of this nature. However, SWATTING calls are not harmless fun, they are illegal, dangerous, and carry serious consequences that can divert responses to real emergencies.”
At 6:15 p.m. Sunday, the sheriff’s 911 dispatch center got a call on the non-emergency line from someone saying he’d just shot his mother in the head, and that he was at a specified house on Blakefield Drive in Palm Coast’s Woodlands. A number with area code 786 showed up at the dispatch center, but when a commander called it, a man answered, identified himself by name, said he lives in Dayton, Ohio, and that someone may have hijacked his number. (Area code 786 is assigned to the South Florida area.) No one was home when sheriff’s deputies initially responded to the Blakefield Drive house. But before long the homeowners arrived. They had no idea what was going on regarding the mysterious call and said no one was inside the house.
Barely an hour later, a deputy responded to a different address in response to threats. The address appears to be a commercial one. (The incident report redacts the entirety of the address, including the neighborhood.) A woman at the business got a call from a man who said: “You have 10 minutes to evacuate the building before I come in and kill everybody.” The call lasted 17 seconds. She reported this to the business owner, who in turn reported it to authorities. The call came from the same phone number that had called the dispatch center about the Blakefield claim. The incident report stated it was the fourth such “threatening” call from the same number in the previous two hours, starting at 5:18 p.m.
At 9:36 p.m. the same evening, the Sheriff’s Office got a call from someone with a particular first name using a different phone number, from area code 714, from the Anaheim, Calif., area. The person said he got home at Cooper Lane to find his wife, whom he named, cheating on him. He said he killed her and was going to kill the man she was cheating with, the children, then himself with a Glock 18 and an AR15, the latter a weapon favored by mass shooters. “There is a history of similar calls at this address and it has been determined to be false reporting from an unknown caller,” the sheriff’s report states. The homeowners, whose names are the same as those the caller used, reported all was well, and that it was yet another swatting incident. But the homeowner, the report states, “does not approve of law enforcement coming to his house so often and does not understand that FCSO is not responsible for making the calls, only for investigating them.”
Anyone with information regarding these calls or similar incidents is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911 or email [email protected]. For those who wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477).