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“Swatting” is a serious offense, not merely a prank

| Jan 21, 2018 | Criminal Defense |

In the online world, it can be easy to forget that real people are involved. There are some who enjoy provoking others into arguments in the comments sections of news sites or social media. Others might stalk, bully or harass people on their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds. While it might seem harmless, there are some Internet behaviors that cross the line and can result in criminal charges. It is important for Wisconsin residents to understand what is not permissible online, before they are accused of a crime.

A prank called “swatting” is a prime example of the type of online behavior that someone might think is harmless, could result in innocent people being harmed. In December, someone asked a man from Los Angeles, California, to play the prank on a Wichita, Kansas, man, after an online gaming dispute. After the unwitting Kansas man opened his door to a team of armed authorities, he was shot and killed when he made a movement that was mistaken as reaching for a weapon.

The following points define swatting:

  • Someone makes a false report to authorities to lure large numbers of SWAT teams or law enforcement to an unsuspecting person’s residence or workplace.
  • The prank usually occurs as a result of an argument or bullying.
  • Those who participate in swatting may not realize that making false police reports is a crime, or they may not think the results can turn deadly.

In the above case, the Los Angeles man is facing felony charges and is being held without bail. It is understandable that mistakes happen, and people may unwittingly commit a crime online or be pressured into participating. However, understanding the potential consequences of a prank that is taken seriously by authorities may prevent criminal charges.

Source: CNN, “Suspect faces felony charge of fatally ‘swatting’ man 1,400 miles away,” Eliott C. McLaughlin, Jan. 4, 2018