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Teen Arrested for Inter-State 911 Hoax

A Washington state teenager has been arrested for making a series of “spoofed” 911 calls to a southern California comm center, one of several he made falsely reporting hostage and shooting situations. The calls sparked a heavy police response and put innocent residents in danger when police surrounded their homes with guns drawn. Randall Ellis, 19, of Mukilteo (Wash.) is charged with false imprisonment with violence, computer access crimes, and assault with a weapon by proxy in connection with the California incident. He also allegedly made similar calls to Pennsylvania, Arizona and to his own home town saying someone had been killed or that a shooting had occurred. Police would not elaborate on the technique Ellis used, but the incidents appear similar to previous false 911 calls made by persons using VoIP telephone service, and “spoofing” their address and telephone number, by sending false subscriber information to the distant 911 system. Press reports have claimed Ellis “hacked into” the 911 systems, but there’s no evidence of that. Police said in one incident a resident heard the noises of the officers surrounding his home and came outside armed with a knife to investigate. Fortunately he was safely taken into custody until police determined the 911 call was a hoax. Ellis is believed to have made at least 200 other hoax calls, a game-like practice that has become known as “swatting,” named after the response that the calls usually invoke.

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