Palo Alto police say person who made 'swatting' call could face criminal charges and civil liability

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- Palo Alto Police are trying to find the person who made a fake call Tuesday night prompting a large police SWAT response on unsuspecting residents. The caller claimed to have killed his wife, tied up his children and planted pipe bombs.

"I was afraid at first and thinking, oh my gosh, could there be someone hiding in this area because they're clearly looking for someone that's in the area," said Moolani Napolitani, a Palo Alto resident who witnessed the police response.

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A police loudspeaker interrupted a normally quiet block of Emerson Avenue Tuesday night following an untraceable call to Palo Alto police.

"The male caller stated that he had just shot his wife in their home, he had the kids tied up, there were pipe bombs everywhere, and if police responded that he would harm the police if they came to help," said Janine De La Vega, Palo Alto Police Department Public Affairs Manager.

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The caller gave a name and address.

"Two people came out of the residence, they had no idea what was going on," said De La Vega.

Officers determined the incident was a "swatting" case. It's a form of harassment or prank where someone calls in a false report to get police to respond. The Palo Alto Daily Post reports one of the victims is a Facebook cybersecurity executive.

"To be honest I was a little relieved, but quite disappointed that someone would actually do that and cause the police to come out and just waste all that time and energy," said Napolitani upon learning the incident was a hoax.

"We take it seriously because our police resources are being wasted. Our officers are being taken away from other duties and other calls that are true emergencies," said De La Vega.

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In addition to possible criminal charges Palo Alto Police say they would go after the caller civilly to try to recoup some of the cost of sending out so many officers.
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