Fake overdose ‘prank’ in Richmond investigated as crime

Posted June 06, 2011, at 6:59 a.m.
Last modified June 06, 2011, at 9:38 a.m.

RICHMOND, Maine — Three local agencies responded to report of a possible drug overdose and suicide threat Wednesday on Toothaker Road, only to determine upon arrival that the call was a prank.

Police Chief Scott MacMaster said that at 7:47 p.m. Wednesday, police received a call that a subject at a residence on Toothaker Road was unresponsive, with blood and cocaine covering his body. The caller then stated the unresponsive individual was his father, and said “he couldn’t handle the stress of this and was going to shoot himself,” MacMaster said.

“Numerous officers from multiple agencies responded,” MacMaster said. Among them were units from the Richmond Police Department, Maine State Police and the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Department. In all, five or six officers rushed to the scene “to find that it was a prank call,” MacMaster said.

This kind of fraudulent emergency is called “swatting,” MacMaster said, which is basically when somebody calls in a bogus complaint designed to send police officers in force to an unsuspecting victim’s home. Police believe the individual or individuals involved were hoping for a SWAT team response.

However, in Maine, SWAT teams don’t automatically respond to calls. They are requested by the police department with jurisdiction when needed.

The officers responding to the initial call Wednesday were met by three toddlers, MacMaster said, which led officers to surmise that “something wasn’t on the up and up.” They cleared the house and made sure there was no danger at the home.

“We are investigating the prank call and working with the phone company and trying to track down the source,” MacMaster said this morning. “We’re working with the family at the residence, trying to figure out who might be responsible, and they will be charged accordingly.”

According to a 2008 story posted on the FBI’s website, the term “swatting” refers to the phony callers’ apparent intention to trigger a SWAT team response to someone else’s residence.

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