An intense session of online gaming turned nasty when armed police and a SWAT team were called to the house of 17-year-old Rafael Castillo in Long Island, New York.
Thankfully, the authorities weren’t responding to any real life violence but were instead the victims of a prank carried out on Castillo by a disgruntled opponent on the video game ‘Call of Duty’.
The police had received a call around 3pm from someone claiming to be Castillo saying he had shot members of his family. "I just killed my mother and I might shoot more people" the hoax caller reportedly said.
The police responded with helicopters, and ambulance and a fully armed SWAT team but upon arrival at the house they only found Castillo, still playing video games, and his 54-year-old mother, unharmed and making coffee in the kitchen.
Rafael said "I thought there was a fire at my house. I ran up and saw my mom running out, I didn't know what was going on.
"Then one of the police officers said somebody called and said that the mother and brother of somebody in this house was killed. I said, 'How is that possible if she's right there and I'm right here?'"
Police said that the hoax was the latest example of ‘swatting’ – the practice of faking emergency calls from a victim’s house, often used as a form of retribution after losing a game online.
“In this bizarre world of Swatting, you get points for the helicopter, for the police cars, for the SWAT team, for the type of entry,” Michael Tagney, Long Beach police commissioner, told CBS News. “It’s very sophisticated. Unfortunately, it’s very dangerous.”
The term was first used by the FBI in 2008 and there have been a number of notable ‘swatting’ incidents in the US with police called to the homes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise.
The authorities in the US are currently looking for the hoaxer who made the call over the internet. If found he could face criminal charges as well as footing the bill for the police response.