Let’s get this straight. I’m not a fan of David Hogg or his gun control crusade, but what happened here is a serious criminal act and I hope the person behind it winds up in jail. Local 10 News reports that Hogg’s family were swatted, though he wasn’t home at the time.
A call came into the Broward Sheriff’s Office claiming a hostage situation at the home in the 7800 block of Northwest 122nd Way.
Coral Springs Fire Rescue arrived at the scene to find there was no hostage situation and the call was a prank.
Hogg was not home at the time of the incident and is currently in Washington, DC with his mother to accept the RFK Human Rights award.
The article refers to this as a prank but it’s actually much more dangerous than that. Swatting is the practice of making false reports to law enforcement so that police are sent to an address believing some kind of extreme situation is taking place inside the house, e.g. a murder or a hostage situation. In this case, the video report below says that the call to police claimed someone was holding Hogg’s family hostage inside the home with an AR-15 and that one person had already been shot.
When police receive a call like this, they tend to respond in force (sometimes sending a SWAT team, hence the name) and are already on a hair-trigger when they arrive. If the unsuspecting homeowner makes a wrong move, the results can be deadly. Last year, 25-year-old Tyler Barriss called the police to settle a score over a video game match. Ars Technica describes what happened:
Two Call of Duty players got into a heated argument, and one of them recruited Barriss, an Internet troll with a history of making malicious prank phone calls, to “swat” the other player. Barriss called Wichita authorities pretending to be a deranged gunman holding his family hostage in an effort to have a swat team raid the target’s home.
But the target lied to Barriss about his home address. So police surrounded the home of Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old man who had no connection to the online dispute. Finch opened the door with his hands up, but an officer shot him after—according to police—he appeared to reach for his waistband. Finch was unarmed.
Finch died and Barriss is now on trial in Kansas. Barriss is also the person who called in a hoax bomb threat to the FCC last year which wound up delaying the Net Neutrality vote. Barriss was indicted on that crime last month.
Obviously, we don’t know who was behind the swatting attempt against Hogg but I can see at least three possibilities. One, it’s someone like Tyler Barriss who likes swatting people and doesn’t need much of a reason. Two, it’s someone who dislikes Hogg’s activism for gun control and wanted to shut him up. If so, that person has only ensured that Hogg is going to get a lot more TV time and attention. Three, this could be someone looking to target Hogg as a way to vilify Hogg’s opponents on the right. That seems the least likely to me but it does happen. Remember those hoax bomb threats against Jewish Centers last year? Those turned out to be the work of an Israeli-American living in Israel, not some neo-Nazi as many people suspected.
It’s too soon to assume what motivated this but this is not a prank. It’s intentionally creating a situation which can result in serious injury or death. Whatever their motive, the person responsible for this belongs behind bars.
Update: David Hogg spoke to Buzzfeed about the swatting:
“The main thing I would say is they’re trying to distract us from the March for Our Lives ‘Road to Change,’ which is the largest youth voter registration push in American history by other young kids going to over 75 congressional districts getting kids registered to vote,” Hogg said, referring to the activists’ summer road trip announced on Monday.
“We’re pushing for change at a level that people our age have only done a few times before in history,” he continued.
I don’t think I’d consider this such a minor distraction if it happened to my family.
Update: Okay, now I’m seeing this statement from Hogg to ABC News: “…just a silly prank”
“The swatting incident was just a silly prank," Hogg tells @ABC.
"It’s not going to take our focus off what we’re super excited about—the March For Our Lives bus tour to get young people to vote and promote gun law reform." https://t.co/BvGCtEyWnb
— ABC News (@ABC) June 5, 2018
Putting plastic wrap on the toilet is a silly prank. If someone sends armed police to your home claiming there has been a hostage situation and a shooting that’s something else entirely.