Lakewood Ranch Herald

Sheriff: Lakewood Ranch family targeted with 'swatting'

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A Lakewood Ranch family fell victim to "swatting" Thursday night when someone called the Bradenton Police Department and falsely claimed that he had killed his family, threatened to kill himself and gave the family's Lakewood Ranch address, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

At about 7:40 p.m. Thursday, Bradenton police received the call from the unknown caller who gave them the address of a home in Lakewood Ranch, according to a news release. Bradenton police notified the sheriff's office, which dispatched deputies to the address.

However, deputies quickly realized it could be a case of "swatting" and were able to speak to the family on the phone to determine they were all safe, the release stated. Upon arrival at the home in the 12000 block of Longview Lake Circle, deputies confirmed the call was bogus.

Later, the investigation revealed that a teenager in the home had been playing the video game "Call of Duty"

online. Investigators believe it was someone playing the game who called in the false information.

Less than two months ago, a Bradenton resident fell victim to two incidents of "swatting."

On Aug. 31, Mike Doner was playing "Minecraft" streaming live on Twitch at 6:45 a.m. when a dozen Bradenton officers stormed into his home. Police had received a call from a girl claiming her father had a machine gun, her mother had just been shot and that she was hiding in a closet.

A week later, Bradenton police received a call from an anonymous caller reporting a bomb threat and giving Doner's home address. The Caller ID listed the phone at the 7-Eleven at 902 14th St. W. in Bradenton.

Within minutes, officers responded to Doner's home and after finding nothing suspicious, realized he had been a victim again. Further investigation at the 7-Eleven revealed the phone had not been used for several hours.

"Swatting" involves calling 911 and faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement -- usually a SWAT team, according to the FBI website.

The FBI has been warning people of this nationwide torment since 2008.

Currently, pranksters are able to use "spoofing" technology enabling them to conceal their own numbers and making the victims' numbers appear instead, according to the FBI.

In addition to being a criminal offense, swatting can be dangerous and costly every time a SWAT team is sent out, officials warn.

Anyone with any information on the Lakewood Ranch incident can call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011,

ext. 2493 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.