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Coquitlam teen facing multiple charges in alleged “swatting” incidents

A Coquitlam teen is facing serious charges in connection with three separate “swatting” incidents that allegedly happened in two communities in Florida.

The three incidents of “swatting”, which is a prank that involves a hoax call to police for the purpose of having a SWAT or Special Weapons and Tactics team respond to a home, school or business; happened in the communities of Winter Haven and Fort Meade in Polk County, Florida.

According to the Polk County Sherriff’s Office (PCSO), their investigation began in September 2014 when an unidentified male called the PCSO and said he was going to Fort Mead High School and shoot everyone.

Polk County Sherriff Grady Judd told Global News that the teen believed he was in a dating relationship with a girl from the Fort Mead high school and when he wanted to advance the relationship, the girl declined. That’s when the 17-year-old Coquitlam boy allegedly “swatted” the Fort Mead high school, according to Judd.

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“As you could imagine that created quite an emergency and we had dozens of deputies respond to protect the students and the school was on lockdown and for hours we searched and prepared for some radical person to show up in a vehicle,” Judd says.

“Of course it turned out to be a prank.”

Another “swatting” incident by the same unidentified male happened in October, when he allegedly emailed the Fort Mead school threatening to blow everyone up. And according to Judd, after the girl moved in November 2014 to the town of Winter Haven, which is about 30 km north of Fort Mead, the male again allegedly “swatted” her at her new home. All three “swatting” incidents evoked emergency responses.

When the PCSO identified the suspect, they contacted the Coquitlam RCMP to advise them of the teen who was allegedly responsible for all three incidents. After providing the RCMP with the information from their investigation, the Mounties were able to get a search warrant for the teen’s home.

And it turns out, the teen suspect is known to police and is an experienced computer programmer, according to the PCSO.

Judd says not only is the Coquitlam teen criminally liable but they are also looking into suing him and his parents civilly to recover the cost of their emergency responses, which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“We see absolutely no humour in this… this is a serious felony in Florida,” Judd says.

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The teen, who cannot be named due to his age, has been charged with one count of extortion, three counts of public mischief and one count of breach of recognizance. Due to the serious nature of the charges, the 17-year-old is being held in custody until his next court appearance on Dec. 18.

Prior to being arrested and charged in the Polk County incidents, the teen plead guilty to two counts of criminal harassment in relation to an incident that happened in North Vancouver in October 2013 and another incident in Waterloo, ON in January 2014. In both of these cases, RCMP said the teen is said to have harassed young women he met online.

He will be appearing in court for a sentencing hearing related to those charges in January 2015.

Coquitlam RCMP Major Crime Unit said they are investigating additional allegations involving the same teen and additional charges are expected.

RCMP spokesperson Annie Linteau says that “swatting” is “something that law enforcement communities take very seriously, because the deployment of significant police resources take away from emergencies that could be happening.”