Authorities investigate 911 caller in swatting incident

Two other threatening calls made regarding town's Main Street

Area law enforcement officials are trying to find out who made a false hostage call that drew multiple agencies to a Stephens City home Monday night.

Stephens City Police Chief Charles Bockey Jr. said a man called the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center at around 8:30 p.m. Monday, saying he had tied up his wife and daughter at his Main Street residence and would shoot them with a .44 caliber firearm. The caller demanded a $20,000 ransom, and he claimed he was a meth addict.

Authorities discovered at the scene that a 12-year-old girl at the residence had been chatting with a man on the internet for two hours when he asked for nude photos and threatened to call a SWAT team if she refused.

Bockey said the Stephens City and Middletown police departments responded to the residence, along with the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia state troopers. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Response Team was put on standby for the incident but was later called off.

“We had a good response last night, we had just about everybody involved,” he said.

Capt. Donnie Lang, of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, said the 12 year old’s father was detained at the scene.

“The way the call came in was pretty serious,” Lang said. “As soon as we figured out what was going on, he was released from detainment.”

Sheriff’s investigators will be working with a computer that was given to officials to find out who the 12 year old was communicating with.

Fake emergency calls that bring police to a residence for a fictitious situation have been coined as “swatting” incidents. Bockey said this is the only such occurrence in the area that he knows of, a statement that was echoed by Lang.

Bockey said someone had left two phone messages at the town office after hours between Aug. 24 and 25 that described a similar situation. Transcriptions from the Stephens City Police Department state that in the first message, the caller said:

“Now you listen you little (expletive). I got eight bombs, Mk 81s. I have eight men armed with AR-15 assault rifles and I will kill them. I will kill any police officers. I have hostages. They are tied up in my basement. I will blow the (expletive) out of any cop that comes near me. I want my money and I want it delivered to Main Street, Stephens City.”

The caller said in the second message:

“Hi I uh apologize. I’m a hacker from Lizard Squad and uh I was just—“ before the call disconnected.

The Lizard Squad refers to a hacking group with a history of internet attacks, and some people identified as members have been arrested for those attacks. Stephens City Police Sgt. Ronald Fox Jr. said the caller who left those messages wasn’t responsible for Monday’s incident.

“It was the same kind of hoax in the end, but right now we don’t think they’re related,” he said. “(They’re) related in nature but not related in who did it.”

Bockey said that although such calls can be a hoax, the department takes threats seriously.

“It doesn’t seem like it could happen here, but it can,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com

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