April 25, 2014 8:08 pm

‘Swatting’ prank leads to frightening ordeal for Edmonton family

EDMONTON – An Edmonton mother and her two teen boys are recovering after a traumatizing ordeal overnight, which started with a confusing 1 a.m. call from police.

“He told us we needed to come out of our house one at a time, with our hands above our head,” said the mother, who wished to be identified as Wendy.

The family, who lives in the area of 67 Street and 101A Avenue, looked outside but — at first — couldn’t see any police.

“Thought it was maybe a joke,” she said.

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But the officers were there; they were just hidden. And there were a lot of them.

“Basically every specialized unit from the police service short of detectives and forensic identification was there,” said Insp. Regan James with the Edmonton Police Service.

“They were in their tactical gear and, yup, done to the nines. It was just like out of a movie,” Wendy said.

“There was a sniper across the street, apparently, trained on the house in the event that one of us had come out with a weapon.”

Neighbours were reportedly told to stay inside their homes and not answer their door to anyone but police.

Wendy says she and her boys had to wait outside for about half an hour as officers searched their home for weapons.

“We don’t have any weapons so that was a no-brainer, really. They even went up in the attic. They looked everywhere.”

It soon became apparent that the whole ordeal was a prank. It stemmed from a 911 call placed to police from the Edmonton area around 11 p.m.

“[The report] involved an incident of some very extreme violence at a home, where violence was going to happen again to a new victim or a next victim,” explained James.

The hoax is part of a disturbing trend called “swatting,” which police define as “a false report given to 911 emergency services about a serious incident often involving weapons, and giving the illusion of lives at risk.”

They add that these calls often occur within the video gaming world. Wendy believes that could have been in this case, as her 15-year-old son was recently threatened online.

The teen was allegedly told that police were going to be sent to his house ,”and he should video the front door getting kicked in.”

Police are still working on figuring out who was behind the prank 911 call. If caught, that person would face a charge of public mischief, which depending on the case, can potentially carry a jail sentence.

This swatting incident is just the latest of many happening across North America. Just two days ago, one took place in Long Island, New York. The response is estimated to have cost $100,000 — a big bill for tax payers.

“I don’t know if they think that it’s funny that they’re pulling a prank and they’re going to have a good laugh at everyone else’s expense,” said Wendy. “I don’t think they realize the extent of what damage they’re inflicting.”

“These types of calls…draw an incredible amount of resources away from what could be real emergencies,” said James.

“We put as much zeal into looking into who made the call as we did into the actual call that they put forward.”

Wendy, meanwhile, say she plans on talking with her sons about online gaming and the information that’s shared online.

With files from Ross Neitz, Global News

© Shaw Media, 2014

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