IMPD cybercrimes investigating what could be city's first 'swatting' call

Posted at 9:54 PM, May 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-11 21:54:58-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- IMPD cybercrimes investigators are looking into what could be the city’s first confirmed case of “swatting.”

Early Thursday morning, 911 dispatchers received a call reporting an unidentified subject was holding five people hostage, and had already shot one of them, at a house on the southwest side.

The caller said the subject had tied up the hostages with pipe bombs attached to their ankles.

Officers canvassing the outside of the home, however, looked through the windows to see a female resident doing laundry – no hostages in sight.

A 19-year-old woman who lives at the residence, and who asked to remain anonymous for her safety, said the call was the latest escalation in an ordeal that began Tuesday.

The woman says she began received endless phone calls from a blocked number. The caller asked to speak to her younger brother, claiming he was being bullied through the online game “Minecraft.”

When she refused, the woman says the caller accessed her family’s router and changed their Wi-Fi password.

The family called Spectrum, who helped them change their password, and then called the police. The woman says she even changed her phone number in an effort to make the harassment stop.

But the calls kept coming.

“He was like, ‘Oh, I see you guys changed or got your Wi-Fi back so fast. That’s impressive,’” she said.

On Thursday morning, the caller upped the ante even more by placing the fake call to police. The practice is known as “swatting,” because it’s often designed to draw a SWAT team to the address of the fake report.

A swatting call to the Wichita Police Department last year resulted in the death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch when officers shot him after he answered his door. Tyler Raj Barris, 25, of Los Angeles, was arrested in the case.

Fortunately, Thursday’s call ended calmly. Police realized there was no hostage situation at the house, and placed an alert on the address so that other officers will be aware it has been the target of bogus calls.

“Now that the police got involved, I’m not that scared anymore,” the woman told RTV6. “But I still don’t know.”

Cybercrimes officers say there has yet to be a confirmed case of swatting in Indianapolis. They are working to determine if Thursday’s incident was indeed swatting – and who called it in.

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