Online Gaming Group Linked to School Bomb Threats, “Swatting” Calls

San Diego police said a juvenile was taken into custody for making threats against Point Loma High School as part of a larger online group involved in "swatting" hoaxes across the country

Police have arrested a 15-year-old San Diego student linked to an online group allegedly responsible for calling in “swatting” hoaxes across five states nationwide.

The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) confirmed a 10th grader was taken into custody Wednesday for his alleged role in three separate bomb threats made against Point Loma High School on April 5 and April 6. The campus is located at 2335 Chatsworth Blvd., about five-and-a-half miles from downtown San Diego.

SDPD Lt. James Keck said the teen is a student at the high school.

Investigators linked the young suspect to an online gaming group accused of making bomb threats or calling in “swatting” incidents in Georgia, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas and Illinois, and also two cities in Ontario, Canada.

Swatting is a prank that involves calling law enforcement for a false emergency. It has become a prevalent hoax in the gaming community in recent years.

The suspect was booked into Juvenile Hall in San Diego, police said.

The SDPD confirmed additional suspects from the online gaming group have been arrested in other states and more arrests may be forthcoming. San Diego police are working with other law enforcement agencies in the impacted cities on the ongoing investigation.

Lt. Keck said he could not share specific details about the gaming group tied to this case but did tell NBC 7 the group is “fluid in size and varies on who could be playing at any given time.”

“Although the players had specific nicknames of handles, there is not a specific group name,” he explained.

Lt. Keck said the motive for the threats is unknown at this time.

The teenager faces three counts of falsely reporting an emergency, Lt. Keck said.

“As the investigation continues, more charges could be added for other incidents as well as conspiracy charges for incidents in other jurisdictions,” he added.

The SDPD said these types of threats are taken very seriously and often times result in the costly deployment of emergency response resources as a precaution to ensure public safety.

When threats like this are determined by investigators to be false, the SDPD said detectives conduct thorough investigations aimed at the arrest and prosecution of all suspects involved.

In March 2011, a swatting prankster called police in San Diego’s Eastlake community claiming to be a man who just killed his wife and threatening suicide. Police realized the murder call was all a big hoax after the alleged victim walked up to an officer at the scene and asked him what was happening.

The law enforcement response to this incident was costly: homes in the area were evacuated and a nearby elementary school was put on lockdown. The man originally identified as the person making the call knew nothing about the incident either. In that case, police believed the caller may have used a phone app that made it appear as if the fake 911 call came from the phone.

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