Two years ago, a tragedy involving a prank that is common in the online community made national headlines. Florida residents may remember the case of the man from Kansas who was shot and killed by armed officers, despite not being armed himself, after a swatting incident gone wrong.
In December 2017, law enforcement in Wichita received a call that a man had killed several family members and was going to shoot more. They arrived at the address provided in the phone call, shooting the resident when they mistook a gesture as the man reaching for a gun. According to CNN, one person involved in the prank was recently sentenced to 15 months in prison, while the California man who made the false call received 20 years on felony charges.
Swatting receives its nickname from the act of luring armed law enforcement or SWAT teams to an address by making a false call alleging a violent crime. The Florida Legislature warns that in Florida, it is a misdemeanor for a resident who knowingly provides fraudulent information to police concerning a crime. Subsequent swatting convictions qualify as felonies.
It is important for Florida residents to understand the serious nature regarding making false reports to law enforcement. Authorities are not pleased when a false call diverts law enforcement that may be needed elsewhere, and less so if someone is harmed as the result of a prank. However, many young people might not realize that swatting is more than a harmless joke. Therefore, experienced counsel is necessary for those who are facing criminal charges.