Law enforcement investigates apparent ‘swatting’ hoax in Summit County
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an apparent “swatting” incident after someone called dispatchers early Sunday morning alleging to have shot his girlfriend at a home on White Pine Canyon Road. Law enforcement officers discovered the call was a hoax when they arrived at the home.
The Sheriff’s Office received the call around 1 a.m. Sunday morning. The man sounded distraught and claimed he had just shot his girlfriend and was going to shoot “the kids” next. According to a Sheriff’s Office report, the man requested a hostage negotiator and appeared to be suicidal. He claimed to be in possession of an AR-15 rifle.
Dispatch reported that the caller suddenly left the line and dispatchers heard what sounded like shots being fired. No other calls came in around that time from nearby homeowners reporting the sound of gunfire.
Deputies, along with members of the Summit Wasatch Advanced Tactics (SWAT) team and Park City Police Department, responded to the home, which was vacant, according to the report. A residence caretaker told law enforcement that the homeowners were in California.
Lt. Andrew Wright, with the Sheriff’s Office, said the caller was specific about his location in White Pine Canyon, which is what prompted the multi-agency response. Investigators believe it was a case of “swatting,” in which someone makes a fake report to emergency services in an attempt to prompt a response from a SWAT team.
Wright said investigators will try to determine if the call was part of a diversionary effort to pull resources away from the law enforcement presence monitoring the Sundance Film Festival.
“That was in the back of our minds,” he said. “There are many different things that we have to consider when something like this comes in with very detailed information. This sounded like the real deal and something we need to be extremely serious about. We would treat any call like this with that same awareness.”
Wright compared the call to other scams where people are contacted in a request for money. He said it is extremely difficult for law enforcement officers to track down the callers in those cases because an app is often used to disguise the number. However, he said “swatting” is not common in Summit County.
“I don’t remember any time that this has happened to us specifically in Summit County,” he said. “We’ve had calls from residents who thought they heard gunshots, but nothing that has triggered such a large response.”
White Pine Canyon Road features several multi-million dollar homes located around the Colony neighborhood, situated near Canyons Village at Park City Mountain Resort.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”