MARIETTA, Ga. - A tense situation in a Marietta neighborhood kept streets closed and residents on edge for hours.
It turned out to be an example of a crime plaguing departments across the country called "swatting."
When a 911 caller claimed a man inside a house off of Roswell Road had shot his mother and was armed with a rifle, police responded in force Friday sealing off the neighborhood, with fire and ambulance crews taking up positions nearby.
“I was really scared. I've never seen so many police cars in one area, especially in this area. It’s so quiet,” neighbor Lynn Vella told Channel 2’s Ross Cavitt.
After police surrounded the home, they got the attention of those inside, who were forced, one at a time, to come out with their hands up.
“When they said we were getting Swatted I thought it was a joke. I was still in my boxers, ran down and there were guns to my head,” one of the victims told Cavitt.
“It was pretty surreal man. Like they were like ‘back up, put your hands up.’ It’s like what you see in the movies. It’s pretty crazy,” said victim Devon Mark.
Police told Cavitt that there were seven individuals inside the house and nobody was shot. They said the incident turned out to be a hoax phone call.
Investigators said the seven people inside the home were professional online gamers and they had been the victims of Swatting.
Swatting is an ongoing problem across the country that's attracted the attention of the FBI and is common in the online gaming world.
The gamers told Cavitt that tracking down the caller is almost impossible. Police said it puts a strain on resources.
“Every time you take officers off of the beat to handle a hoax call, it creates a dangerous situation because something serious could be happening elsewhere,” said Officer Michael Bowman of the Cobb County Police Department.
It took a while for word to filter through the neighborhood that the display of force was for nothing.
“(I was) just worried about my family. (I wanted to) make sure everything’s okay. It’s just a shame for some kids to call in a hoax,” neighbor Steve Clemmer said.
Police were planning to try and track down the caller but have hit dead ends.
Swatting became such a problem in California, legislators enacted a new law that calls for jail time and for the caller to pay back police for the cost of their response, which often runs in the tens of thousands of dollars.
The FBI is also investigating cases in other parts of the country.
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