Video gamer Peter Varady, 12, was ecstatic to go viral in the online gaming community, with his YouTube following recently ballooning from going from 600 to 115,000 followers after being endorsed by another popular gamer.
But the new attention has come with some caveats. When the Varady family heard a knock at the door late Sunday night, his mother opened to find teams of Los Angeles police officers and other rescue personnel who believed two people had just hung themselves in their Chatsworth home.
There was no such crime at the residence, but the Varadys were a victim of what's known in the gaming community as "swatting," in which players track down the home addresses of rival and report fake crimes at the location.
In this incident, someone called 911 and claimed two people had died while being recorded on a live stream.
“They’re saying they got all these phone calls that people hung themselves,” Peter's mother, Carol Varady, said.
Luckily, no one at the Varady's was hurt, but seventh grader Peter described the incident as "the most terrifying thing in my life."
“Imagine yourself in a place, a 12-year-old like me, and you get cops called your house for something you didn’t even do,” he said.
Officers eventually left the home after determining the threat was bogus and are still trying to trace the 911 calls.
LAPD said there’s no way to initially discern swatting calls from actually emergencies so they handle every scenario as if someone’s life is in danger.
It’s becoming increasing difficult to track the perpetrators due to the high tech devices often used, especially more and more people are getting targeted, police said.
The Varady family is still shaken by the ordeal, especially as the harassment hasn't subsided. They are still targeted with strange phone calls, including one from a person claiming responsibility for the so-called swatting, and deliveries of pizzas they never ordered.
Carol says she's concerned, especially as one recent case turned deadly.
“People have gotten hurt," she said. "We’ve seen those incidents.”
A 25-year-old Los Angeles resident was charged with manslaughter last month after a 28-year-old gamer was killed in Kansas by officers responding to a hoax 911 call.
The suspect, Tyler Rai Barriss, had already been the subject of an LAPD investigation at the time of his arrest after becoming known as a "swatting" hit-man in the gaming community.
Barriss told police he has swatted about 20 homes and evacuated close to 30, CNN reported. He said he does it for the attention, according to an affidavit obtained by the network.