An online game led to a real visit from SWAT officers in Colorado after an apparent hoax that has begun to target people who stream live content online.
Littleton police SWAT responded Wednesday to an office complex in Littleton after a 911 call.
“The caller stated that he had just shot multiple people, multiple co-workers, at his office building over here,” said police Chief Doug Stephens.
SWAT officers and bomb technicians swept the building but didn’t find any sign of trouble. Instead, it appears it was all a hoax targeting a group of online gamers who were live streaming from the facility at the time.
“There’s a somewhat, not really common, prank that happens,” said Daniel Gidlow, part of a group streaming gamers known as The Creatures. “While we’re live streaming to thousands of people, somebody calls the cops.”
Two gamers posted videos to YouTube on Wednesday afternoon, which shows the SWAT response during a live stream from Kootra, another member of The Creatures.
In the video, Kootra states that he believes they have been “swatted” because he can hear officers clearing the office. A short time later several officers enter the room with guns drawn, telling Kootra to get on the ground. Over the next several minutes the officers question the gamer as he sits handcuffed in the room.
Though police originally detained a few of the gamers, they did not make any arrests and said they were cooperative with the investigation.
The SWAT response also led to several security precautions at area schools. Other businesses in the office park were also impacted.
“It was a bit intimidating,” said Jeff Barela, who works next door. “The police came in and said, ‘Hands up, we need to see them.’ They had guns drawn and they escorted us out of the building.”
Justin Beiber and other celebrities have been targets of similar hoaxes nationwide in recent years, which is why Littleton police have also reached out to federal authorities for assistance.
“We’ve had some success with back tracking these types of calls through the internet and through our phone record systems to identify the caller and prosecute them,” Stephens said.
Not only is it a waste of taxpayer money and public safety resources, Stephens says it’s a hoax that carries some dangerous potential.
“This is not an online game. We have real guns, real bullets and there is a potential there for some tragedy,” Stephens said.