Imagine a heavily armed SWAT team bursting into your home, all because someone has just called in a hostage situation – that never happened!
It’s a potentially deadly prank called “Swatting”, when someone calls 911 to report a violent crime in progress that sends a SWAT team racing to the scene.
“There’s huge dangers involved when we have to respond in that type of situation,” Sgt. Jason Park with the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department told INSIDE EDITION.
The prank is sweeping the country, with about 400 Swatting cases reported every year.
Some big name celebrities have become victims of Swatting in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. Cops were sent racing to mansions owned by Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Miley Cyrus. But every call was a hoax.
A phony 911 call of a home invasion caused a wild scene outside of Miley Cyrus’ L.A. estate in August. “We responded to the location and no one was home,” a Los Angeles police officer told reporters outside Cyrus’ home. “We believe it’s a prank call.”
Fortunately, Miley wasn’t home. But, other victims of Swatting haven’t been so lucky.
Mike Stack is a conservative blogger who was apparently targeted by Swatters last year, after he helped expose former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal.
A SWAT team surrounded Stack’s New Jersey home, after receiving the following 911 call:
“I killed my wife,” the caller told 911.
“How did you kill her?” Asked the 911 operator.
“I shot her.”
“Is she still alive or is she dead?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t checked on her in about two hours,” said the caller.
Stack showed INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero how the SWAT team dragged him out of this home in the middle of the night.
“They said ‘Did you call 911?’ And, I said ‘No, why?’” Stack said. “[Cops said] someone called as you and said that they murdered their wife.”
“How stunned were you when they said that?” Guerrero asked Stack.
“I was shocked. It was something out of a dream.”
Stack said he was terrified.
“Mike, were you afraid that you could have lost your life that night?” Guerrero asked.
“I believe I probably could have lost my life.”
Only a handful of Swatters have been convicted. INSIDE EDITION’s I-Squad spoke exclusively with a former-Swatter: Ashton Lundeby.
In the culture of Swatting, Lundeby is a celebrity. He was only 16 when he was arrested after calling in fake bomb threats to Purdue University in Indiana, among other colleges.
In a call to the Purdue Police Department, Lundeby threatened, “You have until 9:35pm to disarm or find the bombs”.
He and other Swatters set up a pay-per-view channel, where Lundeby said he would make between $3,000 to $4,000 by charging viewers to log on and listen to their team of swatters call in their hoaxes.
Lundeby and other swatters actually hacked into the surveillance cameras positioned at Florida State University’s recreational center and broadcasted the video for all their viewers to watch.
During the call to Florida State, one prankster told a recreational center employee, “Do you have any idea what 1,400 bodies look like scattered into pieces because an explosive device blew up?”
Lundeby can also be heard erupting into laughter during the call saying, “Guys! Look! Everyone is leaving!”
Lundeby served nearly two years in a federal juvenile detention center. He spoke exclusively with INSIDE EDITION about Swatting.
“Did you did you do this for fun, because people could've been killed,” Guerrero asked Lundeby.
“I mean, at that time, I thought it was funny and other people thought it was funny. So, that's why I did it.” Lundeby said.
“What is the motive behind Swatting?” asked Guerrero.
“There could be some kind of rush or thrill out of it,” explained Lundeby. “There could be somebody that somebody doesn't like, and they decide ‘This is how I'm going to get back at them’ and Swat them.”
Lundeby said he has learned his lesson. “I'll never do anything like this again.”