Gaming community reacts to local swatting prank - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Gaming community reacts to local swatting prank

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“So I walked over here to the middle with my hands in the air and then I had to lie down in the middle of the road face down over here,” said Jim Townsend, the victim of a dangerous hoax in Ward this weekend.

Townsend ended up in handcuffs, all because of a prankster who called police, claiming to be Townsend’s 16-year-old grandson. The caller told police he had killed one parent, was holding the rest of the family hostage, and had wired the home with explosives.

Law enforcement in Brookings and Moody Counties are still searching for the caller who drew nearly two dozen officers to homes in Ward and Elkton this weekend.

Police believe the hoax was a form of revenge after the caller lost a video game. This kind of prank is happening all over the country; they’re calling it swatting. It’s why the loser of an online game tracks down the winner’s home address to call in a fake homicide, bomb threat or other dire situation that brings police and SWAT teams to the players home.

“I've heard about it a lot actually... it’s happen to a few high rated players on Call of Duty,” said Nickolas Reiter, the Operations Manager at Galaxy Gaming in Sioux Falls.

The problem with these swatting prangs is tracking down which online player made the call.

“There are more than 20,000 people online, just on Call of Duty right now, and that's a really low number,” said Reiter.

Anyone who plays online knows things can get pretty heated, especially when you’re playing strangers.

“A lot of swearing mostly…people quit, I know some of my friends have had bad days, where it gets taken out on your Xbox,” said local gamer Stephen Ahrens-Myers.

The same can be said of any competitive sport, but it seems gamers are the only ones taking that competitive aggression to the next level.

“Swatting is drawn to the gaming community simply because people take the games much more seriously than they did say 10 years ago,” said Reiter.

While this online community is causing a few dangerous headaches right now, gamers say it can be a great resource when used correctly.

“I've got a couple of friends, they're all army buddies that moved away and it was just convenient that we could play online,” said Ahrens-Myers.

“I met one of my best friends online. I played with him a solid 6 to 8 years, we were on Skype all the time, and then last Christmas we actually flew him out here from New Jersey for Christmas,” said Reiter.

These players know how to use online gaming the right way, and where to draw the line when it comes to losing.

This weekend’s case in Ward is one example of a player taking things too far. Falsely reporting a crime can start as a misdemeanor offense, but it can be elevated to a felony if that person has been previously convicted of the same crime.

In past Swatting convictions in the U.S., most were guilty of making multiple prank calls around the country.

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