Janesville police looking for caller who made false 911 call

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Frank Schultz
Monday, August 25, 2014

JANESVILLE—Police might have encountered their first instance of “swatting” Sunday afternoon.

Police responded to 329 E. Racine St. after a man told the 911 center that he had shot his mother and was holding his brother hostage.

Turns out, the call at 4:20 p.m. Sunday was a hoax. No one was home at that address, a duplex on the near east side.

The FBI defines swatting as “making a hoax call to 911 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.”

In this case, the local SWAT team did, indeed, respond. No one was injured.

“Sometimes swatting is done for revenge, sometimes as a prank,” the FBI says on its website.

“We haven't seen this before,” said Janesville police Deputy Chief John Olsen of when asked about swatting.

“It's only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured as a result of one of these incidents,” said the FBI, which first defined the phenomenon in 2008.

At least one police officer has been injured responding to such an incident, and “some unsuspecting victims—caught off guard when SWAT teams suddenly arrived on their doorstep—have suffered mild heart attacks,” the FBI says.

The investigation into who made the call continued Monday. No arrest was announced.

The 911 caller gave a name, and police contacted that person, Olsen said.

Olsen said whether or not that person was the one who made the call remained a question for investigators.

Another avenue for investigators was to track down the caller's phone number, which came through as restricted.

Olsen was not sure what charge the caller might face. One possibility is a statute that says that anyone who dials 911 to report an emergency and knows that the situation is fictitious can be fined between $100 and $600.

A second offense for this crime within four years is Class H felony, which carries a maximum prison term of three years.

Police response was quick and strong on Sunday. Olsen said officers' first concerns in a shots-fired incident are to get there fast and to keep themselves safe.

Patrol officers arrived first, surrounded the house and formed a team to approach the house, Olsen said.

A team member knocked on the door but got no response. Police backed off, got neighbors evacuated and called for the special weapons and tactics team.

Officers tried to make contact several more times before the SWAT team entered the house, Olsen said.

The SWAT team approached the house in the BearCat armored car, which is kept in Beloit and belongs jointly to the Beloit and Janesville police and the sheriff's office.

Beloit officials had monitored the situation and had the BearCat on the road quickly, Olsen said.

SWAT members had to break down the door and two other locked doors inside, Olsen said. He did not know whether they pried the doors open or hit them with a battering ram.

The SWAT team's concern was to get inside, rescue any victims and “make things safe,” Olsen said.

The SWAT team did not use flash-bang grenades or other distraction devices, Olsen said.

The incident was wrapped up in about two hours, Olsen said.

Costs for the event will include overtime for SWAT team members.

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