Teen gets three years in SWAT prank

Times Staff Writer

A Washington state teenager has been sentenced to three years in a California prison for tricking 911 dispatchers into sending a SWAT team to the Orange County home of a randomly selected family.

Randal T. Ellis, 19, of Mukilteo was sentenced Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana after pleading guilty to felonies including false imprisonment by violence and falsely reporting a crime. He also was ordered to pay $14,765 in restitution, nearly all of it to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Ellis was arrested last year after hacking into a telephone network and impersonating a caller from a Lake Forest home, saying that he had killed someone in the house and was threatening to shoot others. The technique in which a prank call is made to 911 dispatchers is known among hackers as “SWATting.”


The Sheriff’s Department dispatched a SWAT team and surrounded the home with dozens of officers, dogs and a helicopter.

As the children of Stacey Cerwin-Bates and Doug Bates slept, Doug Bates thought he heard a prowler outside and grabbed a kitchen knife.

When he entered the backyard, deputies armed with assault rifles confronted Bates and handcuffed him and his wife until officers were able to determine that the report was fake.

Authorities spent more than six months tracking down Ellis.