Ted Chen, Fabian Rodriguez
Police surrounded the home of State Sen. Ted Lieu after receiving a 911 call claiming he had shot his wife in their Torrrance home. Like other so-called swatting calls, it was a hoax. Ted Chen reports from Torrance for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2013.
A California senator who has drafted a bill to tighten penalties against pranksters who make bogus 911 calls prompting police response to the homes of celebrities -- in an only-in-LA-phenomenon -- has himself become the victim of a similar call.
Someone sent the Torrance Police Department a text message at 1 p.m. Friday claiming to be Sen. Ted Lieu and saying he had shot his wife, said Lt. Mike Jezulin of the Torrance Police Department.
The call prompted authorities to send up to seven police cars, fire trucks and paramedics and shut down the streets around the Democratic senator's Torrance home.
Police, some armed with assault weapons, ordered Lieu's wife out of the house with her hands up, Lieu said.
Lieu, who was not at home at the time, was frightened when he learned of the incident.
"It was a scary thing for her to go through," Lieu said Saturday in an interview with NBC4. "My first reaction was, 'I wonder if someone else shot my wife or something had happened to her.'"
The prank is called "swatting" after the response it sometimes garners from police SWAT teams.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials have criticized the fact that there are light penalties for people who falsely call 911, drawing police resources away from other potential life-threatening incidents.
Someone caught swatting faces a possible jail term and $1,000 fine.
"They must be brought to justice," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which sponsored Lieu's bill, after an incident earlier this year. "They must go to jail."
Lieu's Senate Bill 333 pushes for those who make false 911 calls to pay for the costs of sending teams of officers which can climb to as high as $10,000 per incident, Lieu said.