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Northwestern Law Student and Boyfriend Victims of Swatting Hoax
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SWAT

Summary: Emergency call of a man with a gun who had shot his law student girlfriend on the Northwestern campus turned out to be swatting hoax.

Wednesday afternoon Evanston police received an alarming call from a man who claimed to be the boyfriend of a woman he shot. The call resulted in the Evanston Police Department SWAT team showing up at Engelhart Hall graduate dormitory at Emerson Street and Maple Avenue by the Northwestern University campus, according to the Chicago Tribune.

  
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The woman, who was later identified as a law school student at Northwestern, was uninjured. The man that placed the call was not her boyfriend. Police now believe the couple were the target of a false 911 prank called “swatting”, according to Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew.

No arrests have been made in connection with the phone call yet. They are still investigating to determine if the caller may know the victims somehow. Glew explained, “The name the caller gave is a real person who has some association with Northwestern. But it’s not the caller.”

The police were able to locate the “real” boyfriend and the law school student, who are both safe. “For whatever reason they were targeted by the caller,” Glew said. The woman was found at the university’s downtown Chicago campus. Glew was unsure where the boyfriend was found or if he has any affiliation with Northwestern.

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The caller used a “scrambled” phone number but officers were able to work with cellphone providers to track the phone’s possible location through GPS to be somewhere southeast of Rockford. Glew was also unaware if the caller had altered their voice as well.

Glew said, “They’re legitimate victims” of swatting. The term refers to when a SWAT team responds to a hoax emergency call made with the intent of drawing a large law enforcement response. The hoax is not only a big drain on police resources but can have deadly consequences should an actual emergency happen.



An estimated 400 cases of swatting occur each year, according to the FBI. Usually, the callers use some sort of fake or scrambled number to disguise the phone number on caller IDS. The victims of the prank are unaware of what has happened, “they’re not used to dealing with police. When someone’s not a criminal it can be very hard to process,” Glew added.

In a recent swatting case, police dispatchers in Wichita, Kansas received a call from someone claiming to have shot his father and to be keeping two other people as hostages inside the residence. The police responded to the address given to them by the caller. Andy Finch, 28, walked out of the front door of the home and was fatally shot by an officer. An investigation determined that Los Angeles resident Tyler Barriss made the call. Barriss was charged with involuntary manslaughter and additional felonies for making the phone call. They were not able to determine why Finch’s address was the target of the hoax call.

Another case in Florida forced three families to evacuate their homes when the caller claimed they had placed bombs at the three locations.

In 2015, a call made to police in Maryland resulted in a 20-year-old getting pelted in the face with rubber bullets because a call had been made that there was a hostage situation at the home. The call was a hoax.

Northwestern was shut down for several hours as police responded and investigated the incident. Students and staff received an alert roughly 15 minutes after the call was made, warning them to stay clear of the dorm in question. The dorm serves as housing for university graduate students and their families. When the police found no evidence collaborating the call, the kept the area closed to conduct a more extensive search.

The specific apartment in question had been empty since “before Thanksgiving.” There was no weapon, shooter or victim found. After two hours, the police gave an all-clear sign.

Northwestern President Morton Schapiro stated, “I am extremely thankful that the report of a man with a gun in Engelhart Hall, which was made in a call to the Evanston Police Department Wednesday, turned out to be a hoax and that no members of our community were harmed. This was unquestionably a frightening incident for all of us. This incident gave us the opportunity to test our response and our emergency notification processes that are used when receiving a report of an active shooter. We now will do a thorough review of the incident and our response, as we continue to refine our planning and preparedness for these types of incidents. For now, however, I hope that you join me in being grateful that no members of our community were injured.”

Do you think someone was trying to avoid taking a test? Or does the woman have a stalker? Share your thoughts with us as to why someone would resort to doing something like this in the comments below.

To learn more about other pranks gone wrong, read these articles:

Photo: af.mil



 

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