It’s one thing to be a sore loser; it’s quite another to get the cops involved because of it.
Police in Long Beach, N.Y., located on Long Island, received a call Tuesday afternoon from someone identifying himself as 17-year-old Rafael Castillo saying he had just killed his mother and “might shoot more people.” That prompted a swarm of armed Nassau County officers, Metropolitan Transportation Authority officers, and hostage negotiators - over 60 in total - to descend upon the Long Beach home of the real Rafael Castillo, who was up in his room playing “Call of Duty.”
Castillo had been facing off with someone in the game online and killed one of his opponents’ characters. The wronged party then retaliated by calling authorities with the false report. The caller had reportedly gotten Castillo’s home address by tracking his IP address during the game. The resulting police response is estimated to have cost around $100,000.
CBS New York noted Wednesday that police are still searching for who made the phony call and says the FBI is getting involved in the probe.
The call now serves as another example of “swatting,” a prank phenomenon in which a person sics a SWAT team or some sort of emergency response on another person’s home. People who put in swatting calls can also gain points depending on what’s included in the response, such as helicopters, presence of a SWAT team, and how the police enter the home, among others.
Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney called the “bizarre world” of swatting a “nationwide epidemic.” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, meanwhile, said cases like this are a “dangerous and outrageous waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer dollars,” adding that authorities will use every tool they have to track down the culprit and hold him or her liable for the cost.
Celebrities have also been recent targets of swatting, including Justin Timberlake, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, and Justin Bieber. Police in California responded to calls at their homes, all of which proved to be false. The rash of swatting calls in the state resulted in Gov. Jerry Brown signing a bill making those who make the calls responsible for the full cost of the subsequent police response.