Update on Infamous Swatting Incident Highlights a National Problem

The 2017 swatting death of a man over a computer game shocked the country. Two additional men have been charged and have pleaded not guilty.

There is a unique culture that has developed over the years when it comes to online activity. Disagreements can ensue on social media and online gaming forums, and emotions can often run unchecked. A face-to-face argument might be defused by a mature discussion and an apology, but this may be more difficult for North Carolina residents who are arguing behind computer screens. Internet participants may forget that they are communicating with real people, and that their actions can have consequences.

Man killed in swatting hoax gone wrong

Many people across the country will remember a shocking incident that occurred in December 2017. As Reuters explained, a man from Wichita, Kansas, was killed when armed law enforcement showed up at his address, after receiving a call that the resident had killed his father and was holding his family members hostage at gunpoint. Officers mistakenly thought the man was reaching for a weapon when he answered his door, and he was shot and killed.

Reportedly, two men were in an argument over an online game. An 18-year-old from Ohio contacted a known swatter in California, asking him to play the prank on his 19-year-old Kansas gaming partner. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting man caught in the middle of the prank, the residence was the 19-year-old's former home.

North Carolina family targeted in 2015 swatting prank

Swatting is not a new crime, explains Fox 8 News, but it is becoming increasingly prevalent among gamers and other people who use social media, particularly the younger crowd. The prank is called swatting because the person calling in the police report intends to draw armed law enforcement or SWAT teams to the target's address.

The hoax has also reached communities in North Carolina. In 2015, an unknown person reported to authorities in Newton that a young man had killed his girlfriend and was holding his parents hostage as he considered whether to kill them as well. Armed officers responded, restraining the hands of each family member with zip ties until they could ascertain it had been a prank. Authorities believed the son was targeted by someone from an online gaming site.

The Newton swatter may have never been located, but in the Kansas case, three men have been charged. The teens from Kansas and Ohio are facing charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and wire fraud, and recently pleaded not guilty. The California man faces a possible life sentence for providing false information in a hoax, as well as federal and state charges for manslaughter, threatening to kill someone and cyberstalking.

Swatting can result in life-changing penalties for young people who may be misled into thinking they are playing a harmless prank. An experienced defense attorney is essential for protecting the rights of people accused of crimes.

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North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.