What is Swatting and Why is it Happening in Missoula?
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On December 9, 2022, Montana law enforcement responded to several hoax calls about an active shooter in multiple parts of the state, but there was no evidence of an active shooter and no actual threats found.
“This is likely an orchestrated hoax tactic called swatting,” Division of Criminal Investigation Administrator Bryan Lockerby said. “We are assisting with the coordination of these incoming threats to further the investigation and identify the source of the calls.”
Montana Attorney General Weighs In
After this incident, KGVO news reached out to Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen to learn more about swatting.
“It was reported that there was going to be a bomb threat or some sort of a violent act happening at these Montana schools,” Knudsen said. “Of course, we take these phone calls seriously, we have to. In this day and age dealing with schools, when someone calls in a bomb threat or shooting threat, law enforcement is going to take that extremely seriously. Unfortunately, when there ends up not being anything to it, of course, that is a good thing, but you have also wasted a lot of law enforcement resources and sent them on a wild goose chase.”
Missoula County Attorney Explains
KGVO news also spoke with Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst to get her perspective on swatting.
“Swatting is the act of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of police officers to a particular address,” Pabst said. “But what it really boils down to is harassment. It is criminal and it diverts resources from those who need it. We are seeing a lot more people do it as a prank against someone or even some kind of retaliation against someone that they don’t like. It is a pretty devastating act and I don’t think people realize how serious it is.”
Pabst said there have been a handful of incidents where the offenders use law enforcement as their tool to harass and hurt other people.
“In one situation in Kansas, two people were in a dispute over, of all things, the game Call of Duty and an innocent bystander ended up getting killed,” Pabst said. “The caller in that case received a 20-year sentence to Federal Prison. In another case, a 12-year-old child was the victim of a swatting incident.”
Pabst said we have had a few swatting incidents in our community and she wants people to know that it is not funny, it could cost a lot of money, it could land someone in jail, and it diverts our precious law enforcement resources away from those who need it.
“Several potential crimes could apply, including false alarms to public safety agencies, false reports, and potentially even assault with a weapon or criminal endangerment,” Pabst said. “The caller, if convicted, could face years in jail, fines, and have to pay restitution for the cost of the response. Also, it could subject the swatter to substantial civil liability should anyone get injured or property gets damaged.”
According to law enforcement officers in Tulsa, Pabst said the average response of one of these incidents costs law enforcement, and or taxpayers, between $10,000 and $20,000.