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Police Swarm Long Island Home, Discover 911 Call Was "Swatting" Hoax

Police believe the teen was targeted by a fellow online game player

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    Police believe the teen was targeted by a fellow online game player. Checkey Beckford reports (Published Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014)

    Police swarmed a Long Island home Tuesday, responding to what they thought was a hostage situation and possible murder scene only to learn the call was a hoax targeting a teenage boy.

    About 60 officers and emergency responders went to the home on Laurelton Boulevard in Long Beach after receiving a 911 call from someone claiming to have killed his mother and brother there.

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    When they arrived, they found no evidence of a shooting and learned no one at the home had called 911. Instead, a 17-year-old boy believed to be the target of a hoax was in the shower, and his family was fine. 

    Police believe the teen was caught up in a "swatting" prank that has become a trend among online video game players. 

    "When a bunch of people play, the loser will gather information on the winner and will call police in that jurisdiction, say 'I'm so and so, I shot my mother, brother' and try to get his response, and today, it did happen," said Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney. 

    Tangney said police took the call "very seriously" and surrounded the home, bringing out the three people who were inside.

    When the teen was taken out of the home, "we don't know he's not the shooter. He's taken down in what we call a felony stop; he's fully searched and handcuffed," Tangney said. "He was what I would describe as the closest thing to being in shock. He was incapable of communicating for a few minutes."

    When authorities determined the call was a hoax, Tangney said he was "very angry."

    "It's a tremendous waste of taxpayer resources, tremendous danger to law enforcement," he said. 

    The caller "did something so, so foolish and so dangerous," Tangney added. 

    The caller, who has yet to be identified, apparently became upset after losing a video game called Call of Duty to the Long Beach teenager, according to Tangney. 

    Long Beach Police Lt. Mark Stark estimated the cost of the huge police response -- including overtime, fuel and helicopter -- at up to $100,000. Stark added that four Nassau County medics responded, tying up a third of the available force.

    The person who made the 911 call "could be anywhere in the world," according to Tangney. Detectives have collected the names of people who were playing the game with the Long Beach teenager and are working with Internet providers to obtain additional information about possible suspects.

    The FBI is assisting Long Beach police in their investigation, and has made its computer crimes resources available if the case goes across state lines. The teen's game console and computer have been taken as evidence.

    There have been seven "swatting" incidents in Nassau County since 2011, said police spokesman Kenneth Lack. He said two of them involved victims who were playing video games. In neighboring Suffolk County, a spokesman said there have been three swatting incidents this year, all of which involved victims who reported playing video games.

    Last July, police swarmed a New Jersey home after getting a call about a bomb and hostages. They determined it was a prank and were looking into whether the victim was targeted by a fellow XBox game player. 

    Police around the country have been investigating "swatting" incidents for several years. The phenomenon also has involved several high-profile incidents where SWAT teams were dispatched to the homes of celebrities including Tom Cruise, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher.

    Last year, the Los Angeles police said they would no longer routinely issue news releases or offer immediate confirmation on hoaxes in an effort to discourage the prank callers.

    -- Tom Winter and AP contributed to this report. 

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