A frightening scene erupted in suburban Long Island, N.Y., when dozens of SWAT team members charged towards a home on Tuesday after they received a call that an armed man with multiple victims was inside.
Instead of finding a crazed killer inside the home, the SWAT team members found themselves caught in a hoax known as “swatting.”
“Swatting are hoax calls calling out SWAT teams to make-believe, typically hostage-barricade murder situations,” explained Brad Garrett, ABC News’ crime and terrorism analyst.
The target of the hoax in this case was a 17-year-old boy who had been playing the online video game “Call of Duty” inside the home, police said.
When the boy, who was not identified, reportedly beat his opponent at the game, the opponent called the police pretending to be the boy and claiming he’d killed his mother and brother, police said.
“They actually have a system, I believe, where they get points for the type of tactical response the police give, if the helicopters are involved, the SWAT team with controlled entry,” said Long Beach Police Chief Michael Tangney.
“Swatting” pranks have been used on some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Miley Cyrus, whose North Hollywood home was swarmed by police in 2012 after a prank 911 call.
In Long Island, the boy’s family expressed their shock at seeing police in riot gear storm their home.
“Something happened, the police at my house … everything is okay,” the boy’s mother Maria Castillo told ABC News station WABC.
“I’m in shock. It’s crazy,” his brother, Juan Castillo, told WABC.
Authorities confiscated the game console in the family’s home to try to identify the 911 caller.
“The message is for parents to pay attention to what their kids are doing online,” Tangney said.