Canadian teen arrested for role in three Polk Co. ‘swatting’ incidents
(Lakeland Ledger) WINTER HAVEN – A Canadian teenager was arrested Sunday in British Columbia after Polk County sheriff’s detectives said the 17-year-old boy was involved in three Polk County “swatting” incidents.
Swatting is a prank that involves reporting a false emergency to law enforcement so that a SWAT team responds to a specific address, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Canadian authorities who arrested the teen did not release his name.
The Sheriff’s Office said it began investigating the teenager in September after an unidentified person called the Sheriff’s Office Telecommunications Center and Fort Meade City Hall, saying he would “drive to Fort Meade High School in a black Jeep Cherokee and shoot everyone with an AK-47.”
After law enforcement officials went to the school and placed it on lock down, officials determined the caller was a Canadian who was communicating online with a Fort Meade Middle-Senior High School student, who later moved to Winter Haven.
He told her, “I am going to SWAT your school,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said. The Sheriff’s Office said the girl is not involved in this crime.
In October, the Canadian teen emailed the same student and told her he would SWAT her school again. Later, he emailed Fort Meade High School and said he would “blow everyone up,” the statement said.
Detectives later learned the email was sent by the person involved in the first incident.
In November, the Canadian teen placed a hoax call to the Telecommunications Center for an emergency at the student’s Winter Haven home, and he told dispatchers he had killed his parents and would shoot any arriving law enforcement officers, the Sheriff’s Office said.
When authorities arrived at the home, the girl told officers the call was a SWAT hoax.
Sheriff’s investigators contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police about the teenager and found that he is a computer programmer who is on probation for similar charges in Canada, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“He’s a hacker and he’s really smart and he’s using his intelligence to do bad things,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Horstman said.
The Mounties received a search warrant for the teenager’s home based on the information from the Sheriff’s Office investigation. After officials served the warrant at the teenager’s home, he told the Mounties he was responsible for the Polk County hoax calls, the Sheriff’s Office statement said.
Horstman said swatting generally consists of things like calling in bomb threats.” She said the Sheriff’s Office rarely sees this level of sophistication.
“This guy has several online aliases,” Horstman said. “He has very sophisticated sources.”
The Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing, and the teen is suspected of being involved in other American and Canadian cases.
The teen, who remains in Canada, is being charged under Canadian law with one count of extortion, three counts of public mischief and three counts of breach of recognizance, the Sheriff’s Office said.