St. Charles Parish deputies were called to the scene of a reported double murder in St. Rose on Saturday, but when they arrived they discovered that the call was a prank designed to draw SWAT team members and officers to the area as part of an online game.
Similar prank calls have occurred across the country and are called “swatting.” Video gamers have a competition online to see who can get the most law enforcement officers to respond to an emergency situation. In the past, several high-profile incidents have occurred where SWAT teams were dispatched to the homes of celebrities including Tom Cruise and Justin Bieber.
On Saturday, the parish’s 911 center received a call through Skype, an online phone application, from a man who claimed to have killed two family members on Dianne Drive in St. Rose. The man also told authorities that he was holding his brother-in-law hostage.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said even though the call was suspicious, deputies had to respond. A portion of Dianne Drive was blocked off and the parish’s special response team members were mobilized.
When deputies arrived at the house, they discovered that the call had been a hoax.
Champagne was furious after the incident, calling “swatting” a pathetic game that can cause tragedies.
“It’s designed to bring a police response to a house where nothing is happening, but a deputy could be injured or killed while responding,” Champagne said. “You could also go to a house where someone has marijuana plants and they see police and come out shooting. There are so many different scenarios where someone could be hurt or killed. It’s despicable.”
While the call came in by way of Skype through an unknown number, Champagne believes that a local resident was directing the action. The FBI is involved in the investigation and Champagne expects an arrest to be made soon in connection with the incident.
“We have a substantial lead and I would suggest that the local person involved call us and start asking for forgiveness and not wait until the FBI and the Sheriff’s Office come knocking on their door,” he said.
While the Sheriff’s Office has received prank phone calls in the past, Champagne said they pale in comparison to the double murder hoax.
He had strong words for the person responsible.
“We will do everything in our power to have you arrested and jailed for this despicable act. I have made this my mission for the near future. I would burn my computer if I were you,” Champagne said. “We are coming.”