The FBI reports that fake 911 calls—swatting– is an illegal harassment that deceives emergency responders into sending response teams to an address in response to claims that an emergency is under way. The prank calls send SWAT teams and others rushing to a scene where nothing unusual is occurring, but because officers don’t know that the location is actually safe, weapons are brandished. That makes the potential for accidents alarmingly high.
Swatting comes in all kinds of circumstances. Sometimes callers claim there are bombs present in a building; other times they claim there’s a dangerous hostage situation unfolding. Still other calls report murders, rapes, or other criminal activity.
Swatting is a national problem, and Florida has had its fair share of these alarming calls. Recently, in fact, a couple of 14-year-olds were arrested as part of a national swatting group that pays offenders in cryptocurrency after they participate in a hoax call. The teens alleged a mass shooting was about to occur in a Florida school, resulting in a lock-down. Clearly, the fear and chaos such calls evoke are long-lasting and troublesome. Additionally, the waste of police resources as they respond to these fake calls is disturbing. The teens are being tried as adults and are looking at multiple charges with serious time behind bars attached to them:
- Threatening a mass shooting via electronics;
- Interfering with a school’s functions;
- Making a false firearms report.
While many calls center on public areas like businesses, schools, and airports, there have been a number of recent swatting calls directed at the homes or offices of well-known politicians:
- Florida’s Rick Scott suffered a swatting call when an anonymous call came in claiming a woman had been shot by her husband with an AR-15 at Scott’s home address.
- Brandon Williams, a Republican from New York, was shocked when law enforcement notified him that they’d received a call reporting a crisis in his home. When police arrived, the family was instructed to assemble in the kitchen and to keep their hands in view.
- Shenna Bellows, the embattled secretary of state from Maine, was swatted when a man who claimed to have broken into her home.
- Marjorie Taylor Greene, Georgia’s federal House representative, claims to have been swatted no fewer than eight times, including on Christmas day 2023.
If you’ve been charged with activities relating to prank 911 calls, you could be looking at serious changes to your lifestyle. The experienced Kissimmee criminal defense attorneys at Salazar & Kelly Law Group will fight for the best possible outcomes for you. Schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.