NewsTreasure CoastRegion St Lucie CountyPort St Lucie

Actions

Maryland teen arrested after 3 'swatting' calls made in Port St. Lucie

Fake calls said there were violent crimes involving firearm
Port St. Lucie police cruiser generic 2022
Posted at 3:10 PM, Dec 27, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A 17-year-old from Maryland faces charges for three hoax "swatting" calls in Port St. Lucie, police said.

Investigators said that police in November responded to a home in the 2200 block of Southwest Marshfield Court on three different occasions for 911 calls.

The calls reported there were violent crimes involving a firearm occurring at the address.

"The calls range from someone being shot, to someone threatening to commit suicide by cop," Port St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro said.

RELATED: Swatting case poses legal challenges for police

Police said these calls generated a large law enforcement presence and utilized a substantial number of resources.

"It really spikes your adrenaline. You're going there, and you're not just going to have one police officer," Del Toro said. "We had about 10-12 including supervisors, and these calls take a long time to determine that they're false. It's not like you're going to run up to the house and see what's going on. You're going to take a tactical approach to it."

Officers were able to determine the calls were hoax incidents and the occupants of the residence were not involved. For the innocent family who fell victim to the false calls, Del Toro said the experience was terrifying.

"The poor people who are just innocent victims, they're just sitting there doing their homework or just having their dinner and the police are surrounding their house, it’s embarrassing number one, the neighbors are seeing what’s going on," Del Toro said.

He also said people have been seriously hurt, or even killed this way.

"It's definitely not a game. We take these calls very seriously," Del Toro said. "People have been hurt on these calls before in the past."

Port St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro discusses the dangers that law enforcement face from "swatting" calls.
Port St. Lucie Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro discusses the dangers that law enforcement face from "swatting" calls.

Port St. Lucie detectives investigated the case with the Bay County Sheriff's Office and identified a 17-year-old suspect who lived in Maryland as the person responsible for making the bogus calls.

Police said the teen made the "swatting" calls because of an online dispute with another minor who he thought lived at the Port St. Lucie residence.

"She doesn't even live at the address anymore here in Port St Lucie, so some innocent family here was the victim of this call," Del Toro said.

Police said the teen is now in custody and will face charges in Maryland.

Detectives said they will continue to investigate the origin of the fake calls and make more arrests if needed.

The FBI defines "swatting" as someone who makes a hoax call to 911 to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team.