‘Swatting’ at Charlie Sheen, Miley Cyrus homes investigated
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The teenager arrested in connection with “swatting” incidents targeting Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber has also been linked to other cases, including one involving a downtown Los Angeles Wells Fargo, police said.
When announcing the boy’s arrest Tuesday, LAPD provided no details on his identity, exact age or background, nor specifics on the “other swatting incidents involving this individual” that “have been identified.”
But Lt. Marc Reina said one of the non-celebrity incidents included the bank, where police were sent after receiving a call for help.
LAPD investigators also revealed that actor Charlie Sheen was a swatting target in recent months, bringing the number of celebrity incidents in Los Angeles to five.
Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell also have been victims of the hoax.
Reina said so far the incidents at Kutcher’s and Bieber’s homes have been tied to the boy but investigators are still examining the incidents involving Cyrus and Sheen.
Beverly Hills Police Lt. Lincoln Hoshino said Tuesday it’s unknown whether the arrested juvenile was involved in the hoax at Cowell’s home. “It’s currently still under investigation; our detectives are in contact with the LAPD detectives in regard to their arrest,” Hoshino said.
The LAPD, which investigated the case with the Long Beach Police Department and FBI, said they have strong evidence linking the boy to several incidents that prompted a SWAT response, hence the term “swatting.” Reina said the boy used a computer program that allowed him to make TTY calls used by people who are hearing impaired. The boy set up a fake account and began making the swatting calls via message to LAPD, he said.
Investigators have combed through phone company records and have interviewed the boy, Reina said.
“He is very clever with computers and could be applying this in a positive way,” he said.
Bieber’s home was targeted Oct. 10, when Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies received a report claiming a gunman had fired shots and was threatening to harm police when they showed up. The message was received through a TTY device typically used by the deaf to type text over the telephone.
Deputies were unaware it was Bieber’s residence and arrived in force. They searched the home and interviewed people on the property, who told them that no call had been made to authorities and that the pop star was away on tour. They determined the incident was a hoax.
A week earlier, Los Angeles police dispatched several units and tactical officers to Kutcher’s home on Arrowhead Drive after they received a report through a TTY device from a woman who said she was hiding in a closet because there was a man with a gun inside her residence, according to sources familiar with the case.
But after interviewing workers who were briefly held at gunpoint at the actor’s home, as well as contacting Kutcher himself, LAPD investigators determined the incident also was contrived.
“If these things continue, it’s only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. “We’ve got talented detectives who are committed to catching people who put other people’s lives at risk with these dangerous pranks.”
— Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton