DES MOINES, Iowa – Officers responded to the scene of what they thought was a homicide and active shooter situation early Thursday.
Fortunately, it wasn’t. Unfortunately, a scammer tied up a lot of resources.
The call came in around two in the morning. A caller told police he was a sixteen-year-old boy who had just shot his mom in the head, had his little brother tied up in a closet, and wanted to shoot him as well.
“The number was a legitimate phone number,” says Des Moines Police Sergeant Paul Parizek. “We communicated with this person for one to two minutes and during that time we were dispatching the police officers. They were able to set up a perimeter around the house.”
Fortunately, officers on the scene used restraint. Being instructed to not storm into the home until dispatchers pinged the number to make sure it wasn’t a swatting call.
“We were able to call that number back and actually reach the resident that was in the home,” said Parizek. “But he’s not the person that made the call.”
Police say the man who answered was inside sleeping, along with his wife and three young children. Officers asked everyone to clear the home so they could confirm there was no active crime scene.
“It’s an incredible waste of resources,” said Parizek.
“People think it’s a funny thing to do. It’s not. I don’t think anyone is laughing. We’re certainly not. This man that was woke up in the middle of the night with the presence of about 10 police officers, he doesn’t think it’s funny” added Parizek.
Plus, it’s illegal.
“One of the bigger challenges is being able to track down the person who actually made the call. If we could figure out where they were, we would definitely stick it to them with a charge.”
Parizek says swatting callers can face charges of harassment and making a false report to 911. Plus, there’s the possibility of federal charges if the call comes from out-of-state.
So, what’s the point?
“With the way scanner apps work and stuff, somebody may be sitting somewhere listening to this and getting their jollies out of listening to police chase their tail and disrupt somebody else’s life,” said Parizek.
But at the end of the day, these pranks prevent officers from doing their jobs.
“Sooner or later somebody is going to get hurt,” said Parizek.