Vancouver police: Fake 911 call leads to massive response

Someone in online gaming chat room spurs 'swatting' hoax in Oakbrook

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 
Oakhurst Drive

Police descended on a home in Vancouver’s Oakbrook neighborhood Sunday afternoon, believing a woman had been killed, her son held at gunpoint and the house set ablaze. It turns out the 911 call was a hoax set up by someone online in a gaming chat room.

The false report came in at 2:36 p.m. Sunday through an online relay service, which is often used by people with hearing or speech impairments.

The caller, who posed as a 15-year-old resident of the home in the 10100 block of Northeast Oakhurst Drive, reported the active shooter situation and said there were four gunmen in the house, according to Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp. At least 15 officers showed up to the call, which was practically everyone on duty at the time, Kapp said.

Police blocked Oakhurst Drive and surrounded the residence. After they called the house — which was not on fire — the family came outside, perplexed, and said everything was fine. No one who lived there had made the call.

The 15-year-old boy the caller had impersonated went back into the house and opened his computer. People in a online gaming chat room that he had been participating in said he had been “swatted.” Swatting is tricking 911 into dispatching emergency responders to a made-up emergency. Sunday’s incident is believed to be the first appearance of swatting in Vancouver.

The Digital Evidence and Cybercrime Unit is trying to identify the caller, who could face false reporting charges.

Kapp said that people should never share home addresses or information about their families online. The caller had enough information about the family and the home to make the call sound legitimate.