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Utah 'swatting' hoax has Saratoga Springs on hunt for suspect

Published September 2, 2014 1:12 pm

Bluffdale home targeted • Caller claimed murder, hostage situation.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Police are investigating a bogus 911 call that sent officers to a Bluffdale home, thinking they had a murder and hostage-taking crisis in progress.

Saratoga Springs police spokesman Owen Jackson said Tuesday that detectives were trying to trace origins of the 9 p.m. Sunday call. That task is more challenging given that the call was made via VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and not through normal land lines or cellular service.

The caller, who is believed to be the same person who told the victims on an Internet site that "SWAT is on the way," told SSPD dispatchers that he had just killed his mother and was holding his father hostage at the Bluffdale address, Jackson said.

Officers, including some in SWAT gear, arrived but quickly learned the call was a hoax.

Last month, Saratoga Springs police closed down Westlake High School when a caller demanded $10 million in ransom to provide locations of multiple bombs he claimed were at the school.

No bombs were found. Detectives later traced the Skype-originated call to a local 16-year-old boy, who was arrested at his home, across the street from the school. He potentially faces both state and federal charges.

Such so-called "swatting" incidents are plaguing law enforcement nationwide. Last week, a bogus 911 call brought police bursting into the room of a video-game playing youth in Littleton, Colo. That incident, caught on the youth's computer webcam, was viewed on YouTube millions of times.

The FBI reports that about 400 swatting calls are reported in the nation every year.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims