Ottawa officials investigate ‘swatting’ incident

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are tracking down someone who got several Ottawa County law enforcement agencies involved in a “swatting” incident.

Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, police cars from Zeeland, Holland and Ottawa County were screaming to a home on Huizenga Avenue.

“Took a call from a subject advising two black males entered the residence there and gunshots were heard. You can start that way,” a dispatch call said.

The caller pretended to be driving by and saw it happen, describing shots and screams. But he was having trouble pronouncing street names.

“The longer we talked to the caller, the more we began to question what the caller was telling us…but we still couldn’t say for sure,” said Chief Bill Olney of Zeeland PD.

Finally two officers went inside the home. The home owner told 24 Hour News 8 he had no idea anything was going on until he heard somebody shout ‘Freeze’ and he saw two officers pointing guns at him. That’s when police knew for sure they’d been “swatted.”

“Swatting” is the false reporting of a critical incident with the intent of getting a SWAT team or emergency services unit deployed to an unsuspecting victim’s house.

Authorities were able to trace the call; a Skype phone out of California. But the call could have come from anywhere and was routed through several different locations. The hoaxer avoided calling 911. The caller used an unrecorded Zeeland PD number.

Still, investigators are trying to track him down.

“With VOIP phones, cell phones and disposable phones, even though we get a number, trying to track down an individual is tough and we’ve got some other agencies working on that with us,” Tim Smith of Ottawa County Central Dispatch told 24 Hour News 8.

This is the second “swatting” incident 24 Hour News 8 has told you about in the past year. Last June, there was a very similar situation in Lowell: someone called police and told them six men had broken into a house, stabbed someone, and had hostages. It turned out, it was a 14-year-old in North Carolina trying to prank a West Michigan girl he’d attempted to friend online. The 14-year-old faced criminal charges in North Carolina.

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