FBI investigating fake 911 report of gunman

August 16, 2011 10:11:53 PM PDT
The FBI has joined the search for a person responsible for a phony 911 call to the Hinsdale Police Department.

A local SWAT team and dozens of officers were mobilized when there was a false report of a man there with a rifle. This type of crime is known nationally as SWATting - placing fake phone calls to mobilize SWAT teams.

There was a high-tech element to the crime as well. Someone apparently hacked into a computer to make it appear they were calling 911 from inside the Hinsdale home that police responded to.

Minutes after getting the 911 call, Hinsdale police surrounded the neighborhood. SWAT teams from surrounding communities rushed to the scene, but the woman inside the house apparently had no idea that any of this was happening. The woman had to tell the 911 operator what she was wearing so that when she went to the door, police would not shoot her.

Police are trying to find the person who prompted the SWAT response.

"The caller was purporting to be the victim of a shooting that was occurring in progress, claiming that he was a child, that his mother had been shot," said Hinsdale Police Chief Bradley Bloom.

Hinsdale police had no time to waste when the call came in, so they secured the area and called in SWAT team members.

The caller said "that his father had taken him as hostage that he had pipe bombs available to him and warning the police that they would be shot if they approached the house," said Bloom.

While police closed streets, some neighbors took cover, believing they were in the middle of a dangerous situation.

"When the police respond in that kind of force, everybody gets a little bit more nervous about what's happening until they find out that there's not a true danger," said a neighbor named Bob.

The call came into Hinsdale's 911 center from a service that gives voice to email and text messages. It traced back to the house that police had surrounded, but when they made contact with people inside, they learned that nothing was wrong, and the residents knew nothing of any guns or shooting - it was all an apparent hoax.

Police, however, say they do not see the joke.

"This is so troubling and problematic, I mean, they're risking the safety of the officers, they're risking the safety of the occupants of the home, they're risking the safety of the public," said Bloom.

This is the first incident of its kind in the Chicago area, but SWATting has happened around the country.

"Some of the motivation for SWATting has been revenge to their victims or it's been ego or bragging rights," said Kevin Kolbye of the FBI.

Authorities say the dangers stem from the pressure of a tense environment with weapons involved.

"They are very aware that they are going into a very dangerous situation," said Kolbye. "Usually, the safeties are off."

Hinsdale investigators say they have no idea of a motive in this case. However, they say that aside from the public safety threat, there was also a significant cost involved, and whoever did this could face felony disorderly conduct charges.

Police, with the help of the FBI, are trying to trace the call that was made. They are also hoping that if the guilty person brags to some of their friends, they might get a tip that way.

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