Special Tactics And Weapons police surrounded the home of an unsuspecting family in Long Beach, NY earlier this week in response to a prank called in by an anonymous “Call of Duty” player retaliating against another player.
Nassau County, Long Beach and MTA SWAT police responded to the call received around 3 p.m. Tuesday from a man claiming to have shot several family members and threatening to shoot more, CBS reports.
The call led to a 90-minute standoff complete with helicopters, trucks, SWAT teams and more than 60 police officers with weapons drawn. The prank was purportedly phoned in by a player of the popular online video game shooter “Call of Duty,” and claimed to be 17-year-old Rafael Castillo, a resident of the house who was home playing the game at the time of the incident.
According to police the false report and police response were the latest example of a prank known as “swatting,” where the loser of a virtual conflict on a highly competitive multiplayer game takes revenge on the winner by faking an emergency call from the winner’s house.
“It’s a nationwide epidemic right now, where people play video games, and if you lose the video game, you try to develop information about the person you’re playing, and then we send this army of police personnel out,” Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said. “In this bizarre world of swatting, you get points for the helicopters, police cars, the SWAT team, and the type of entry. It’s very sophisticated, and unfortunately it’s also very dangerous.”
The teen’s mother, 54-year-old Maria Castillo, was in the kitchen making coffee when police arrived. Rafael Castillo was in his room and still playing the game with his headphones on.
“He didn’t realize anything was going on — he couldn’t hear anything,” Castillo’s brother, Jose, told the New York Post. “I told him, ‘There’s a bunch of cops outside that are looking for you.'”
“I don’t know why the people called the police,” Maria Castillo said.
Upon emerging from his room the teen knew immediately he had been “swatted.”
“I right away had an idea what it was, because I’ve seen it on the news,” Castillo said.
Investigators are still searching for the player responsible for making the prank call, which was phoned in via the Internet and could have come from anywhere in the world. If caught the prankster will likely face criminal charges and have to foot the bill for the sizable police response.
Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Ashton Kutcher, Sean Combs, Russell Brand, Ryan Seacrest, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber were all intended victims of swatting last year according to the Los Angeles Times, and California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law last September penalizing pranksters by making them pay for the full cost of police responses to false reports.