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Teenager charged with dangerous 911 prank
Published: 2007-10-18

The District Attorney's office in Orange County, California charged a 19-year-old Washington man with six felonies stemming from a prank in which the teenager spoofed the telephone number of a California family in a call to emergency services, an act which resulted in a SWAT team handcuffing the parents of two children at gunpoint in their own yard.

Authorities charged the teenager, identified in the criminal complaint as Randal T. Ellis, with hacking, two counts of assault with a machine gun by proxy, two counts of false imprisonment and falsely reporting a crime. According to the prosecutor's office, Ellis allegedly called 911 late on the night of March 29, using the victims' names. Ellis claimed to have shot someone and threatened to kill more people, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. A SWAT team was dispatched to the victims' home.

"Hearing rustling in the bushes outside and believing it to be a prowler, John Doe took a knife from the kitchen and went into the backyard, where he found the SWAT team pointing assault rifles at him," the prosecutor's statement said. "John Doe and Jane Doe were both handcuffed at gun point by SWAT and held until SWAT determined the report was a fake."

The victims, identified as Doug and Stacy B. in the criminal complaint, had two small children asleep at home at the time of the incident.

"My family is my life and to feel like its being threatened is horrifying," Doug B. told the Orange County Register.

Attacks on the United States' emergency services, known as 911, are relatively rare. In 2005, a prankster was found guilty after he used a Trojan horse to cause victims' WebTV boxes to dial 911. In 2000, an network worm clogged the 911 system in Texas.

The incident is not the first such dangerous prank -- known as SWATting or swatting -- to occur. Earlier this year, five people were arrested for taking part in a group that communicated with each other online, while committing swatting attacks. Ellis is accused of committing additional attacks on the 911 systems of other states, including in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Washington, according to the prosecutor's statement.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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