It started with a phone call. Then a massive police response at a Rincon apartment complex.
A total of five departments, dozens of officers.
After hours of work, it turns out the whole thing was just a hoax. Rincon police say the entire incident apparently started because of a video game.
The call claimed someone was being held hostage, and is believed to be from an angry gamer looking to fight back.
It’s a growing nationwide trend called swatting. When video gamers who lose, then make a false call to 911. The gamer on the other end faces police, as the caller sits back and watches what happens.
Youtube is full of videos showing you what happens next.
“I think we are getting swatted,” video catches one gamer saying as police bust in. “What in the world?” “PUT YOUR HANDS UP PUT YOUR HANDS UP GET ON THE GROUND”
“I cant concentrate right now guys,” said another gamer on video. “Police are like in my backyard.”
“They called and said we were threatening someone with a knife,” explains the gamer in another video.
“He (the gamer who 911 was called on) thinks its funny to see this,” explains Rincon Chief Phillip Scholl. “Then he’s looking down the barrel of a gun and its not so funny anymore.”
Rincon Chief Phillip Scholl dealt with swatters first hand Tuesday night at the Effingham Parc Apartments.
“Hostage negotiation team actually contacted the resident,” said Scholl. “They immediately got on the phone and said yeah we are in here watching tv – they said yeah we’ll come out. They had no idea we were even out there.”
Investigators then found out the phone call came from outside the county. They called number didn’t exist anymore, and the apartment number was wrong. Dozens of officers called away from home and put on alert, for no good reason.
“Knowing that the apartment doesn’t exist, the person calling in is not intimate with that area, he doesn’t know that area,” details Scholl. “At one point they asked if he was at Effingham Parc, he paused then they asked him if he was at the apartments, he said yes.”
“You are creating mass hysteria,” said Scholl.
That hysteria is what worries the Chief the most.
“My biggest fear is going into a house and having small children there,” explains the Chief. “What are you exposing them too? Law enforcement wise and we scaring them? Absolutely.”
He says the person on the other end of the line should now be afraid, because police are looking for them, and will send them to jail.
“Is 30 minutes 45 minutes worth of fun to that person, what they consider fun, is it worth the aftermath?”
“Its dangerous for the people they are calling the prank in on, its dangerous for the law enforcement officers. there’s nothing good about it, absolutely nothing good about it,” says Scholl.
The “swatter” could now face various charges connected to making a false crime report, some of those could be Federal.
Chief Scholl says he will make the swatter pay for what he did in dollars too. He wants him to cover the costs of all that manpower and overtime.
“Just in personnel their hourly rate, overtime rate, plus the equipment they are using, fuel they are using. Plus the intangibles, time away from their families, fear we put our spouses through when we go on calls like that,” said Chief.
He added, while the caller will be prosecuted, the person who he called about will not be.
He is getting cooperation from the telecommunications companies, and hopes someone in the apartment complex or area may be able to help as well.
If you can help investigators in any way in this case, call Rincon Police right now at (912) 826-5200.