A bogus 911 call sent Riverside County sheriff’s deputies into Canyon Lake Thursday anticipating a hostage situation, but an investigation soon revealed that nothing was amiss.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Curt Harris said 911 dispatchers received a call at about 11 a.m. from a man stating he had taken hostages inside a residence in the gated municipality and was holding them at gunpoint.
Deputies reached the location within a few minutes and “quickly determined the emergency call was a prank,” Harris said.
“The occupants of the residence were not involved and were unharmed,” the sergeant said.
He said the department had been diverted by a so-called “swatting” call, which refers to the practice of prank calling 911 services, sometimes from locations hundreds of miles away, and making up threats for the sole purpose of forcing law enforcement officers and other first responders to race to a nonexistent threat, apparently for entertainment.
The source of the Canyon Lake call was under investigation.
Swatting calls have resulted in several major disruptions in Riverside County.
In 2015, a Colorado Springs boy phoned in a fake bomb threat to Corona police, saying explosives had been planted at Centennial High School. The campus was evacuated until the threat was determined to be false. The youth did the same thing to schools in Las Vegas, according to the FBI. The case was referred to federal prosecutors.
According to Harris, hoaxes can sometimes have fatal results, and he referred specifically a Dec. 28, 2017, officer-involved shooting in Wichita, Kansas.
A father of two, Andrew Finch, was killed when officers went to his home after receiving calls that a person had been killed and another was being held hostage. Police said the victim did not comply with commands after opening his front door, leading a patrolman to open fire.
Three men — two of whom live in Ohio — involved in a gaming dispute are blamed for the swatting call that prompted the police response. One of the defendants, Tyler Barriss, is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Anyone with information about the Canyon Lake call was asked to contact the sheriff’s Perris station at (951) 210-1000.
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