Authorities called incident an example of dangerous prank called “swatting”
The 9-1-1 operator relayed details of the report: A home invasion in Westtown Township was unfolding with four armed intruders seizing hostages, according to the caller – self-described as a terrified, 13-year-old hiding in a closet.
A little after midnight on Wednesday, the Chester County Department of Emergency Services received the report, which turned out to be an example of “swatting” – a goal achieved by a hacker who tricks 9-1-1 systems into deploying SWAT to an unsuspecting victim’s home under false pretenses, said Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police.
Police said the reporting party used the correct name for the son of the homeowner in the 600 block of John Anthony Drive in Westtown Township. The individual used AT&T Relay Services to make the 12:12 a.m. call, police said. As the details were described, officers responded and set-up a perimeter to evaluate the situation, police said.
When the caller said the intruders were shooting inside the home and breaking out windows, it was clear to officers on the scene that the information was inaccurate, police said. Police said officers established contact with two occupants inside the home. After interviewing the homeowner’s son, police said the home was not a random target. Investigators believe the call originated from an individual on the west coast who participates in online gaming, specifically the X-Box Call of Duty Game, because someone online indicated they were going to “swat” him, police said.
Police also received information that the individual planned to call in a “bomb threat” to Starkweather Elementary School, police said. Detectives contacted both Starkweather Elementary School and Stetson Middle School to alert them as both schools are within close proximity of the victim’s home, but no threat materialized, police said.
The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department received assistance from West Goshen Police, West Chester Police, Birmingham Police, Willistown Police and Pennsylvania State Police. Detectives are investigating this incident to determine who made the false report. The reporting party used an Apple iPad to text the information to AT&T Relay Services, which then relayed the information to the Chester County Department of Emergency Services.
Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Lt. William Cahill said there’s nothing funny about this kind of activity. “It is actually a very dangerous and serious matter,” he said, adding that investigators “hope to make an example out of the person that did this.”