Feds join in the investigation of Peachtree City phone pranksters

Two juveniles suspected in a bogus 911 report that triggered a SWAT team raid in Peachtree City “did their homework” before phoning dispatchers, police said.

Pranksters researched names of tenants living on Peachtree Station Circle to make their claim that a family was being held at gunpoint there seem real, spokesman Lt. Mark Brown told Channel 2 Action News.

A male called police at 5:08 p.m. Friday saying said he had shot his mother, tied up his brother and father, and planned to fire at police. A dispatcher heard what sounded like as many as eight gunshots during the call.

The result was a massive, city-wide response from police, who thought a gunman was on the loose. At one point, they forced their way into a vacant apartment building to find the caller and his supposed hostages, police said.

But the call was made some 900 miles away from a Bronx, NY apartment, police said. Video gamers tried to mask their true location by placing it over the Internet using multiple IP addresses.

Police located the suspects within five hours. Brown said investigators do not know how the pranksters chose their target, and are unaware of any link between the juveniles and Peachtree City.

New York City detectives are assisting the investigation.

Friday’s hoax was a case of “swatting,” where callers make false crime reports to trick police into launching a SWAT raid. Incidents have increased in recent years, according to Brown and news accounts.

Pop stars Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus were targets of separate 2012 incidents, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 2014, gamers used swatting against a Long Island, NY teen who beat them at “Call of Duty,” news accounts state.

Swatting can be a federal offense, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website. In 2009, an 18-year-old was sentenced in Texas U.S. district court to more than 11 years in prison for charges related to a swatting hoax and other incidents.

The FBI and other federal agencies are investigating the Peachtree City incident, Brown said.

“The department wishes to pursue any potential prosecution of the suspects,” the written statement said. The call caused a “criminal waste of resources and created a great public alarm.”

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