Fairfax, Virginia, resident and open-carry advocate Robert Dickens heard the police siren and saw the lights, so he very carefully stopped his motorcycle, locked his hands on his head and calmly waited for instructions.
He said yes when an officer asked if he could remove a handgun from a holster Dickens was wearing. He gave the same answer when the officer asked to take temporary custody of a pocketknife he had in his pocket.
In the end, he’s thankful he’s still alive after an up-close and personal encounter with “swatting,’ the practice of making a false report of an on-going critical incident to prompt an emergency response.
“Wow, I could have been killed!” he wrote in a report on the Bearing Arms website of an October incident in which officers from many police units suddenly pulled up around him while he was riding his motorcycle home from a couple of errands.
Such swatting incidents are becoming more common. They started out with Internet gamers who would hide behind online personas and anonymous names to report that their gaming opponent had a gun or had taken hostages.
The response often is a full-scale SWAT team at the location, with guns drawn and military vehicles at the ready. It’s even happened to actor Clint Eastwood.
But its danger turned from theory to tragedy over the summer when John Crawford III was gunned down in a Beavercreek, Ohio, store after being swatted by a caller who claimed Crawford was loading and pointing an assault rifle at customers in Walmart.
Actually, Crawford was merely holding a BB gun that the store sells. But Crawford died when officers fired on him, and another shopper suffered a heart attack and died after the police opened fire, the report said.
The Bearing Arms website said the activity is “a favored tactic” of gun-control supporters.
For example, from the Facebook page of Moms Demand Action, a group that tries to push retailers into public statements of opposition to guns, a Jennifer Decker wrote, “Every time I see someone with a gun in a store I will call 911 … because I feel threatened, they’ll get tired of that right quick!!!”
Added Alan Crammatte, “Call the police and say you feel threatened by a man with a gun.”
The Bearing Arms report had the details of Dickens’ ordeal.
He explained he ran some errands that day, at 7-11 and a Verizon store. Then he was pulled over.
“Now I’m thinking that I’ve got my pistol on me and I’m asking myself how I would feel if I were an officer pulling over someone who was armed,” he wrote. “OK, turn the bike off, straddle the bike, interlock your hands on your head, and be calm.”
Eventually, he found out a known “swatter” had called police on him.
Reported Bearing Arms: “Unfortunately, the individual in question – like many supporters of gun control – is thought to be mentally ill. The [police department] has a difficult time pursuing a criminal SWAT-ting case against the caller because they can’t prove criminal intent.”
Hear the 9-1-1 call accusing Dickens of armed robbery:
Just days ago in Massachusetts, MyFoxBoston quoted a private investigator observing the “game” is getting much more dangerous.
“Last July, a prankster called in a bomb threat that shut down part [of] Harvard’s campus. In Dennis last week, a gamer used SWAT-ting to allegedly target a victim. But Tuesday in Ashland, police saw SWAT-ting go to the next level.”
The report said a scammer called police to claim to be a man who was being held at gunpoint by his wife. A SWAT team, police and fire officials arrived and found no emergency.
Private investigator Tom Shamshack said, “When somebody responds to one of these calls, it’s all hands on deck and you have weaponry and ammunition that are there that could conceivably get somebody killed.”
The NBC affiliate in Philadelphia reported this month that 30 police officers surrounded a South Jersey house earlier this year, surprising Rob Richards, who was playing video games with friends.
The occupants of the home were forced outside at gunpoint by police understandably concerned by the telephone call they had received that said: “My mom and dad got into an argument and it got physical. I took the gun and I shot my dad. I want to kill her and kill myself. I don’t want to be alive anymore.”
“Please don’t have them shoot me! I’m really scared!” she said.
Officers explained: “We got a call there was a man inside the residence at your house and that he had killed his wife and was getting ready to kill his children.”
In Nebraska, the state patrol launched a tactical response in Sarpy County at a home where family members were inside sleeping.
Lt. Kevin Griger pointed out the danger.
“Somebody’s in his own home, he hears the front door crash in, he grabs his personal weapon, goes to the front door, the SWAT team’s coming in, he doesn’t know that because he doesn’t anticipate any problems, you know, and a firefight en[sues] in the home and somebody gets hurt because of that.”
The targeted family was able to explain to deputies there was no problem, avoiding a standoff.
Meanwhile, police told Dickens they will be “checking the sanity of the caller.”
Said Bearing Arms: “Mr. Dickens kept his composure during the stop despite the four squad cars in his mirror, and the Fairfax County Police Department acted very professionally as well. The FCPD responded to the call with the potential for force, but never once drew a weapon on Mr. Dickens placing him in danger, which was the clear intention of the caller.
What of the caller?
“The [citizens group] contacted the FCPD to obtain a copy of the 911 call that the caller had made, and discovered that the caller is a known SWAT-ter, who has SWAT-ted others in the past.”
CNN previously reported RedState managing editor Erick Erickson was the victim of swatting.
And WND columnist Phil Elmore earlier this year addressed the problem.
“Two years ago, this column warned you of the dangers of ‘SWAT-ting,’ a technological exploit in which hackers (or those with the ability to ‘spoof’ telephone numbers or otherwise fool emergency response networks) simulate emergency calls in order to direct law enforcement officers to a specific address. Often, Voice Over IP (VOIP) and other modern telecommunications methods are used to hide the caller’s true identity. Notably, SWAT-ting was originally invented as a new means of silencing conservatives by liberals.
“It has, however, spread to other spheres of cultural influence, becoming just yet another weapon in the griefing arsenal of gamers, computer geeks and script-kiddie almost-hackers who want to find a way to reach through the Internet and harm someone.”
Elmore cited incidents in New York, Vancouver, South Dakota and other places.
“Making the police believe a dangerous situation exists at a given location should not be, in and of itself, a life-threatening condition. The first-responders who come to your home are there ostensibly to protect you, to rescue innocent people from harm that might be inflicted by bad actors. But increasingly, Americans and (their neighbors to the north) are discovering that the armored, masked, helmeted, machine-gun toting men who smash down their doors aren’t interested in rescuing anyone so much as they are interested in neutralizing potential threats. No doubt our nation’s SWAT teams are quite adept at this neutralizing … but this focus on command and control doesn’t leave a lot of room to protect and serve.”