June 9, 2014, Category: Blogs

An otherwise calm evening at home ended with our house being surrounded by a SWAT team. I walked out the door and had 5 assault rifles pointed at me. No, this isn’t the start of a short story.

We had several news agencies interview us, including Good Morning America. Of all of them, the best was a Podcast by Reply All on March 4, 2015.

SWATTED in Lake Stevens

copsTonight 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.

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28 thoughts on “SWATTED in Lake Stevens

  • By Warren - Reply


    It’s hard to know whether to share this or not. I don’t know if promoting it makes it worse, yet I also feel like people need to know stuff like this happens. I may have to take this post down, but at least wanted friends and family to know.

  • By Edna - Reply

    I can only imagine how frightening that would have been. I bet you won’t be getting much sleep tonight. At least I would have if running and rerunning around my head all night wondering about all the “ifs” that could have taken it another direction. What a horrible, cruel thing to do to someone and I truly hope he is caught and punished and does NOT end up winning the competition. I’m very grateful you are all okay.

  • By Kim N - Reply

    Oh my goodness! That made my heart pound just reading it! I am so glad you are okay. It is really scare that someone would put everyone at risk like that. I hope they find him.

  • By Pier Allred - Reply

    Wow how intense! Glad everything worked out fine and nobody was hurt!

  • By Steve - Reply

    Someone needs serious punnishment for this crime. I am so glad your family is safe.

  • By Warren - Reply

    Local paper ran a story: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140610/NEWS01/140619941/Lake-Stevens-police-investigating-prank-911-call

    Seattle KIRO TV came out and did interviews, will run on tonight news.

  • By Jenny Hancey DeCow - Reply

    Oh my heck!! That’s crazy!!

  • By Trisha - Reply

    Hi, I am one of your neighbors (although I was at work, and missed the whole thing) from down the street. I just want you to know I’m sure the spectacle of the whole thing is embarrassing, but I know I can speak for all of us and say that we are SO relieved it was a terrible hoax and everyone in your home and safe. I’m so sorry you were put through that.

    • By Warren - Reply

      Thank you 🙂 We’ve been able to talk to a few in our neighborhood and everyone has been very understanding.

  • By bev - Reply

    I used to live in that street must have been scary for sure. Be thankful it wasn’t Everett police, the same thing happened to a friend of mine who lived with elderly parents, his father was thrown to the ground and smashed into the floor with cops on top of him,,,,his elderly father succumbed to those injuries a few months later, all because someone called and said there was a bomb in the house. Now he left behind a widow forced to sell everything and has no income and a son fatherless…..only in Everett there was no apology, or explanation to neighbors, just a destroyed front door,and an old defenseless man in the hospital and later dead.

  • By Melissa - Reply

    I think this is my neighborhood on 15th st I think because it looks familiar to me

  • By Warren - Reply

    Here is a link to the News Report

  • By Sam - Reply

    I’m your neighbor…. I saw the whole thing. Sorry for your family how horrible!

  • By Warren - Reply

    I’ve decided not to delete this post as I had originally planned after letting friends and family know what happened. I struggled with it, and still do. But my current line of thinking is that the troubled kids who would do this already know about it. Curtis knew what it was, the young gaming community knows exactly what it is, yet a bunch of us adults have no clue. They want to see somebody taken down on live camera streams. They want something to go horribly wrong. They want to cause havoc. I think it is easier to create that mayhem when we have a large group of people who aren’t clued in.

    The other problem is that in our state, it is only a misdemeanor rather than a felony. A slap on the wrist for endangering the police force and a quiet neighborhood is a prime example of a consequence that does not meet the crime. This should be a felony, which means laws have to change, which means public support. There may be some younger kids out there who aren’t necessarily out to wreck society, but hear about this and haven’t had their parents talk to them about how dangerous and tragic the prank really is. So they may do it more as a stupid ignorant stunt than a blatant act of aggression. But the outcome is still the same. If that is the case, it’s just another reason to educate the public.

    Curtis didn’t say a word about it on his Twitter or YouTube accounts, where he has nearly 30,000 followers. He acknowledged it happened, said it was no big deal, and told his fans he would ban them from his feeds if they mentioned it again. That is not be the place to talk about it. But in the news and on Facebook where most of the audience are friends and responsible adults, I felt the cons outweigh the pros. Plus, there was a ton of speculation in our town about it. I wanted people to know the details.

    • By Joann - Reply

      I’d stop my child from playing those games! Thirty thousand followers doesn’t sound good to me. There are better ways to have fun!

      • By Shantelle - Reply

        Very much agreed! You never know who is on the other side “gaming” with you. And with the number of people you have, the type of game it is, kids get these awful ideas and innocent people like you get ambushed,

        • By Warren - Reply

          This doesn’t just happen to gamers. All somebody needs to know is your name and your address to do this to you. We need the law changed, more funding to the 911 program. Children don’t have thousands of followers, it’s the older young adults who compete and are sponsored that do. And even at that, it is only a very small number of them that this happens to.

          • By Pamela -

            I agree that not allowing your kids to game is not the answer. What happened is not the fault of your son or anything he did. The poor behavior is not because he has a hobby that connects him with a large number of people. The laws need to catch up with technology and the people who pull this type of stunt need consequences.

          • By Jan -

            My family had a similar experience in January. My son is also a competitive gamer and has a YouTube channel with 80,000 plus followers. He also happens to be a member of Faze. I will spare you the details of that horrible evening, but we were fortunate that our son had the maturity to come tell his father & me that someone messaged him that he was going to be swatted. My husband & I didn’t think anything was going to happen, it just seemed too crazy. How wrong we were. Your description of your emotions during the “event” is so true. It’s hard to process the demands of a street full of police officers. In our case it was almost midnight so all we saw were spot lights shining from the street. In my case I feel fortunate that I couldn’t see the twenty some officers in full riot gear that had our house surrounded until the whole thing was determined to be a hoax. So many things could have gone wrong….but they didn’t.
            As for some of the comments made that the boys shouldn’t be playing this game or putting videos on YouTube, my thoughts are that it’s not your place to give unsolicited advice. My son & I just returned from Anaheim, California from the MLG event. The Faze members I met are intelligent, well mannered young men who just happen to be talented gamers. They live in different parts of the world, not just in the United States. What a terrific learning opportunity it is to have friends from so many different cultures. Why would I ignorantly take all of that away from my son because of the the cowardly actions of some immature child?
            My son didn’t do anything wrong. He handled the situation with a maturity beyond his age and earned the respect of the responding officers. I had never been prouder of him. I could go on and on about all his accomplishments, scholastic and extracurricular, but I won’t. I really just wanted to let you know that there was another family who had gone through a similar experience and truly understands the fear and disbelief you perfectly described.

  • By Mary Anna Henke - Reply

    Thanks for educating us. I had no idea that this is taking place. So sorry this happened to your family. Scary!

  • By austin - Reply

    Sadly this is something that happens to competitive gamers around the US this isnt something new, but it is something terrible. People online hack and find your information call the police about a hostage situation. This has happened to many Professional Call of Duty players and even League of Legends Streamers. I am sorry this happened to you, but if your son is a Pro COD player and has many fans he also has many haters/trolls that will do things like this. even hack into your personal computers and take personal information. Be careful and be safe. Might want to get the phone number of the general of the police department so he can call you if he gets another call like this.

  • By Linda - Reply

    What a scary situation. Am glad that everything ended well.

  • By Yvette - Reply

    Thanks for sharing, Warren. I have an adult gamer in my home but like you mention it could happen to anyone as a cruel prank. I’m so relieved your family is okay, although the mental scars may take time to heal.

  • By Warren - Reply

    On another note, Curtis won the contest that led to this whole incident. He spent a week in LA at the MLG (Major League Gaming) tournament and is now a member of a Call of Duty Team called FaZe. He earns money from sponsors, being a part of FaZe, and from his YouTube channel. As part of the competition he had to produce a creative video and engaged our help in creating an Intervention. Here is the link:

  • By Warren - Reply

    Curtis has received a lot of attention from his followers regarding the family support he receives for being a video gamer. Many of them don’t understand that he isn’t supported unconditionally. To address what the support means, we did a Father’s Day special and talked about it. That video is located here:

  • By Dawn - Reply

    Please don’t delete this don’t delete this post. I wish there were more parents like us willing to post and make others aware of this cruel hoax known as swatting. My home was swatting in February, my son is also a gamer. Thankfully your family was not harmed during this incident. My family is doing ok but my children are not doing so well. My youngest child has been having nightmares and I have him in therapy. Did investigators find out who was responsible? Were they able to trace the call? I believe the call that was made to our local police department was made by a Seattle teen.

  • By Warren - Reply

    The best media coverage on this was done just a couple weeks ago on a podcast: http://gimletmedia.com/episode/ive-killed-people-and-i-have-hostages/

    They were the first ones to mention how thankful I was for the way our Police Department handled the situation and discuss some ideas on what needs to happen to help stop this type of problem. The rest (even Good Morning America) just focused on the drama of it rather than offer helpful information. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/police-suspect-gamer-spurred-swat-emergency-rivals-home/story?id=24094091)

  • By Warren - Reply

    The FBI took over our case after the local PD subpoenaed records from Skype and Twitter. I’m not sure where it all sits now. If your call was made by somebody in the USA, that will go a long way to helping them catch them. Ours might have been out of the country, I’m not sure.

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