Tonight I was sitting on my computer, writing on my book. Mikayla was sitting at the table doing her homework. Curtis was playing Call of Duty and doing a livestream with a bunch of his fans, he’s a professional gamer and is on the tail end of a huge contest. His buddy Tyler was playing next to him. Sandi was up watching TV. It was a typical evening. Until our house was surrounded by a SWAT team.
I first heard the sound of a megaphone outside, like you see in the movies when there is a hostage situation. I ran upstairs and looked out the front windows. Across the street were a bunch of cops in the neighbors front yard, one of them had a megaphone and was saying something but I was too wound up to understand a word he was saying. I ran out the door to take a look and saw the street swarming in flashing red and blue lights. Police cars lined the road both up the street and down it. I ran back in the house, something bad was happening out there.
I ran down the hall and yelled for Sandi, “Something is going on with one of the neighbors, there are cops outside, get out here!” We all ran up the stairs and looked out the window and I started listening to the police officer with the megaphone.
“Will the residents in XXXX please come out.”
“Dad, that’s our house!” Curtis said.
“No it’s not,” I said. “Ours has a 13 in it.”
Then I realized that every gun, the megaphone, every officer was looking and directly at us. And the 13 was an old address. I did live at XXXX and my blood ran cold. Then I ran out the door. I think I had my hands up. Because that is what you do when assault rifles from every direction are pointed at you.
From my right, an officer said, “Over here!”
I looked over and he was waving for me, so I ran to him. I mean, ran. He pointed me under the neighbor’s awning and I said, my family is still in the house! I figured a dangerous fugitive had escaped and might jump from the shadows at any second. Then I realized they had all followed me, we were all standing there together.
“What is going on?” I said. Now I was starting to freak out.
“Who is Curtis?” he asked. “Is Curtis here?”
Curtis raised his hand, “I am Curtis.”
They cops moved around him and I thought they were going to cuff him. In my mind, I raced through millions of scenarios. I figured there had been some major misunderstanding in Call of Duty. I know my son, I didn’t think for a second he had done something. But I was scared to death that because of some crazy misunderstanding that something bad would happen to him. That he was going to be taken away. I mean, this was all in a split second.
“Are you all okay?” The officer said.
“Yes,” I said. “We’ve all been in the house, in the same room. What is going on.”
“We got a call from Curtis on Skype. He said he had shot his father in the head and had wrapped explosives around his mother and was going to blow up the house.”
Our mouths dropped wide open. I immediately jumped to my son’s defense, I’d been sitting next to him. I know he wouldn’t do something like that.
“We have all been in the same room, I’ve been talking to him and listening to him all night. I know he didn’t make that call.”
“Can we check your house?”
I nodded, “Yes, anything!”
Several officers left and I noticed groups of neighbors watching us from up and down the street. Police were everywhere, hiding behind cars with their guns. I felt sick to my stomach. Where was this going?
“Curtis is in a big Call of Duty competition, he has a lot of thousands of people who follow him. Somebody must have pranked him,” I said, my hands shaking.
At this time the officer with us must have decided the whole thing was a hoax, because he gave us the details. They had a call claiming to be from Curtis. He said he was depressed and mad and had shot his father in the head (I think they said ‘shot his father in the head’ like 20 times) and strapped a grenade to his mother and was going to blow up the house. He said he’d kill anyone, especially police officers, if they came to the house. As they arrived and lined the house, he said he’d just shot the dog and started a fire in the house. Whoever was doing it was trying to get them to ambush us.
The officer said they had suspected something wasn’t right with the call, but they couldn’t take chances. They tried to call us but all our numbers were no longer valid. We’ve only had cell phones for a few years. When I walked outside, they were saying in the megaphone “Sir, the man who just came out, yes, You!” But I was too hyped up to make sense of anything.
He said, “right now your house is completely surrounded and we’ve evacuated your neighbors.”
The officers returned from searching our house and one of them spoke into his intercom and told everyone to stand down. Cops walked out from all around the house, hidden in the trees in the back, the sides. All carrying assault rifles, some with riot shields. All wearing Kevlar.
“It looks like the news truck is here, we better get you in the house unless you want to talk to them,” the officer said.
I didn’t. He walked us to the house and said he’d be back in a minute to talk to us. He said they’d explain everything to the neighbors.
We came in and all of us picked up our phones, our hands were shaking so much we couldn’t even text anyone. Within a few minutes the officer came back and apologized, we apologized right back and thanked him for doing his job. They handled it great. It is terrifying to think about how a little thing could have turned tonight into a horrible nightmare. Like me running out the door for a second and then darting back in, for one thing. My clueless actions could have been interpreted as aggressive. Or sudden motions misunderstood.
So many bad things could have happened. The officers had to respond and take the threat seriously, in the past few years we have learned you don’t ignore these types of things. But thank God they handled it well and the misunderstanding was sorted out peacefully without a tragic outcome. Aside from a little embarrassment, everything is just fine.
The officer returned and we talked with him for a while. He looked at the chat history, saw the kid claiming to have made the call, and told us that the sad thing is they will probably never be able to do anything about it. Curtis and I will fill out reports and provide a chat history and all the information we can dig up. Maybe with a little luck they will find this guy, wherever he is. A stupid, dangerous, and idiotic prank that is referred to as SWATTING. It places a lot of innocent people at horrible risks, the SWAT team, our neighbors, and each of us. It’s also a huge waste of resources in a world that is already short on public service.
Another player in the contest was SWATTED at the same time. He ended up handcuffed with cops kneeling on his back.
So that was our evening. I still can’t believe it.