Saturday, February 2, 2008

911 hoaxer sent SWAT teams to innocent homes

A Washington state teenager was arrested for a "spoofed" call to a California 911 center, one of several he made falsely reporting hostage and shooting situations. The calls sparked a heavy police response and put innocent residents in danger when police surrounded their homes with drawn guns.

Randall Ellis was charged with false imprisonment with violence, computer access crimes, and assault with a weapon by proxy, in connection with the California incident. He also allegedly made similar calls to Pennsylvania, Arizona and to his own home town, saying someone had been killed or that a shooting had occurred. The incidents appear similar to previous false 911 calls made by callers using VoIP service, and "spoofing" their address and telephone number, by sending false information to the distant 911 system.

Police said in one incident a resident heard the noises of the officers surrounding his home and came outside armed with a knife. Fortunately he was safely taken into custody until police determined the 911 call was a hoax. Ellis is believed to have made at least 200 other hoax calls, a game-like practice that has become known as "swatting," named after the response that the calls usually invoke. (info from Dispatch magazine)

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