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A Kingsland residence was the target of “swatting” on Sunday, Nov. 5. An anonymous 9-1-1 caller told law enforcement that killings had taken place inside the home, prompting a serious response that ultimately led to a waste of time and effort for several area agencies. Officers determined the call was false after arriving on the scene.  

Swatting is making a false report of an egregious crime to intentionally elicit a heavy response from law enforcement, especially a SWAT team.

In this case, the caller told a 9-1-1 dispatcher that someone killed their parents with an AR-15 rifle in a Kingsland home and had possibly barricaded themselves inside. Llano County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the call, a Travis County SWAT team was put on standby, Sunrise Beach Village police also became involved, and local emergency services were staged before it was determined the tip was a hoax.

“(The) caller is still unknown as of this time and not believed to be from our area,” LCSO patrol Lt. Tim McClane told in a written response to questions. “They are using a ‘spoofed’ telephone number as well.”

Spoofing is when a person falsifies their caller ID information so their actual number is hidden. It often goes hand in hand with swatting, according to the FBI.

“The individuals who engage in this activity use technology to make it appear that the emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone,” reads an excerpt from a 2013 FBI media release on the rise of swatting. “Sometimes swatting is done for revenge, sometimes as a prank. Either way, it is a serious crime, and one that has potentially dangerous consequences.”

In Texas, the punishment for swatting depends on the severity of the infraction. The crime is called “false report to induce an emergency response,” and it can be considered a third-degree felony if someone is killed or injured as a result. The offense is punishable by two to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. 

If a person has been charged with swatting twice before, they can face a state jail felony punishable by 180 days to two years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. The lowest charge is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and as much as $4,000 in fines.