In recent months the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office have responded to reports of violent crimes that turned out to be false alarms after investigators determined they were prank calls known as “swatting” used to trigger a large emergency response targeting a victim or sometimes a random person.
On Aug. 2, the Sheriff’s Office responded to a Palm Coast home in a large number including paramedics, fire rescue and a helicopter put on standby, after a man called the non-emergency line saying he had just shot his mother in the head.
Video shared by the Sheriff’s Office shows deputies driving up to the scene sirens blaring, getting out, guns ready and posting up behind a patrol car. However, it was all for nothing, according to the Sheriff’s Office, because investigators determined it was a “swatting” call.
Two ambulances, one fire truck, another fire rescue vehicle, a K-9, half a dozen deputies responded to that call.
On July 10, the Sheriff’s Office responded to a call, from a man who said he had shot his mother. This call also turned out to be a swatting prank call.
On May 26, someone called to report a suicidal person with several firearms. In this case, deputies spoke to the residents of the home and learned that a woman was threatened earlier in the day by a male who said he would “SWAT” her after she refused to speak with him. On the same day, the same man ordered pizzas to the home, which residents did not order, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Rick Staly said swatting calls are expensive because of the large response required and they can be dangerous for the residence of the swatting call because officers believe they are responding to a serious crime.
“Sometimes swatting calls are made to retaliate against someone for whatever reason and sometimes they are completely random. We have seen both recently in Palm Coast,” Staly said in a news release. “Unfortunately the types of calls are so serious that a large police response is required and there is no way for deputies or first responders to know that the call is fake until an investigation is completed. In the meantime, resources are diverted from other calls for service while they investigate a call that turns out to be a prank. It’s not funny and it is illegal and dangerous. "
Anyone who makes one of these reports can face charges of filing a false report.
Anyone with information regarding these calls or similar incidents is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911 or email TIPS@flaglersheriff.com. For those who wish to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477).