SIERRA VISTA— A man contacted Sierra Vista police and said he had killed his mother and was going to burn down her apartment, investigators said Tuesday.
The call, made late Sunday night, sent out Sierra Vista Police’s SWAT team. Residents living in the immediate area received reverse 911 calls informing them to shelter in place because of the immediate threat.
The incident never happened.
And the caller, whose location and identity could not be determined, had pulled off a “swatting,” Sierra Vista Police spokesman Corp. Scott Borgstadt and Cmdr. Lawrence Boutte said Tuesday.
Swatting, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, involves making hoax emergency calls in order to elicit an armed police response (normally from the SWAT team).
The caller in Sierra Vista’s incident said the homicide had occurred at the Sunburst Terrace Apartments on North Seventh Street. The call came in just before 10 p.m. and was cleared after 11 p.m., Boutte said.
“Just after 11 p.m. we received the first information that it was possibly a swatting,” Boutte said.
Extensive resources were used because of the number of officers who were called to the scene, Borgstadt and Boutte said. Overtime was involved because many officers who were off duty, had to report.
Additionally, residents in the area were alarmed after they received the reverse 911 call, police said.
Aside from wasting the police department’s time and frightening residents, there is also the potential innocent people and police could get hurt or killed during such calls, said Borgstadt and Boutte.
“In this particular case, you have our SWAT team responding to a potential homicide,” Borgstadt said. “They’re on heightened alert. There is a potential for civilians and officers to get hurt.”
It has happened before in other parts of the country.
In 2017, a Wichita, Kansas, man was shot to death by police after they responded to his apartment on a call regarding hostages being held inside his residence. The call was a swatting made by an individual in Los Angeles. When the man — who was innocent and unaware of the swatting call — answered the door for police, he was fatally shot.
In November, a 30-year-old Georgetown, Delaware, man was sentenced to three years in federal prison for various swatting calls he made across the country, the Department of Justice website shows. The calls included false reports of murder, shootings, arson and a hostage situation.
Boutte said there have been a few swatting calls across the country in the last few weeks. He said Sierra Vista has had them before, but not recently.
The commander warned that individuals charged with making swatting calls would face “serious felony charges” that could reach the federal level.
“Depending on the call, the person could be charged with an act of terrorism,” Boutte said.