On Sunday, December 7, 2014, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or “Mounties,” arrested a 17-year-old male suspect in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, after a PCSO investigation into three incidents of “Swatting” that occurred in Polk County positively identified the young man. Due to Canadian privacy laws, the suspect’s identity is protected.
The investigation began in September 2014, when an unidentified male called the PCSO Telecommunications Center and said he was going to “drive to Fort Meade High School in a black van and shoot everyone.” The same caller called Fort Meade City Hall with the same information. Law enforcement quickly responded to the school, placed the school on lockdown, and spent several hours searching for an armed suspect. Detectives assigned to the investigation identified the suspect as a Canadian youth communicating online with a Fort Meade juvenile witness. The Canadian suspect told the juvenile witness “I am going to Swat your school,” just prior to the phone call.
“Swatting” refers to a prank that involves a hoax call placed to law enforcement for the purpose of having a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team respond to a home, school, or place of business.
In October 2014, the suspect again told the witness he was going to “swat” her school (Fort Meade School) via email. The suspect then sent an email to Fort Meade High School saying he was going to “blow everyone up.” Again, a large police presence was sent to the school and the school was placed on lockdown until the threat was identified. Detectives determined the hoax email was sent by the same suspect.
In November 2014, the suspect “swatted” the witness’ home in Winter Haven by placing a call to the PCSO Telecommunications Center and telling the dispatcher that he was inside a home in Winter Haven, he had just killed his parents, and that he would shoot any law enforcement officers who arrived. Several law enforcement officers, including two canine units and the PCSO helicopter, immediately responded to the scene. When law enforcement officers arrived on scene, the juvenile witness located inside the home told the officers that the incident was a “swat” hoax, and the detectives already assigned to the Fort Meade “swatting” investigation added this incident to their ongoing investigation.
In December 2014, PCSO detectives contacted the Mounties with the aforementioned information and identity of the suspect. The Canadian suspect is an experienced computer programmer known to Canadian law enforcement authorities, and is on probation for similar crimes in Canada. One of the conditions of his probation is supervised use of computers.
The Mounties have been working closely with PCSO during this joint investigation, and obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s home on December 6, 2014, based on information provided to them by PCSO. Upon serving the search warrant and seizing the suspect’s computer, he admitted to the Mounties that he was responsible for the “swatting” calls in Polk County. He is also a suspect in other cases in the United States and Canada. The investigation is ongoing.
The suspect remains in custody in Canada on charges of one count Extortion, three counts Public Mischief, and three counts Breach of Recognizance (similar to Violation of Probation in the U.S.). He has a court appearance scheduled for later today, December 9, 2014.