Fredrick Coffey, 24, who lives one floor down from the apartment raided by SWAT team members, looks inside the apartment from the broken window police used to gain entry. (By Frank Abderholden / Lake County News-Sun)
Approximately 40 police officers converged on a house on Bluebird Court in Hawthorn Woods Thursday afternoon after a fraudulent 911 call came in from a young man who claimed to have killed his parents there, was holding his sister hostage and was going to blow up the house with a bomb.
Law enforcement officials call it "swatting," something that became popular among gamers who would report fake or exaggerated incidents for a certain address to get a large police presence to show up as part of prank on the person living at the home, according to officials.
"This is something that has become more popular throughout the country and law enforcement has been cracking down on these cases," Sgt. Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said.
"We had at least 40 police officers respond to the scene and the fire department because of the possibility of a bomb," he said. "It’s a major public health risk, because officers from around the area are responding with lights and sirens. Other real emergencies have to be held longer because the resources are at the fraudulent scene."
In 2015, after a number of a number of "swatting" incidents, Illinois legislators upped the ante by making the prank a felony with fines up to $10,000 upon conviction in House Bill 3988, which became effective at the start of this year.
Thursday’s incident also involved the Lake Zurich Police Department because they dispatch for the Hawthorn Woods Police Department, Covelli said.
Dispatchers in Lake Zurich received a 911 call at 11:28 a.m. from someone who identified himself as a 19-year-old who lives at an address on Bluebird Court in Hawthorn Woods. He said he had just killed his parents and then he disconnected the phone, Covelli said.
Arrest and booking photos are provided by law enforcement officials. Arrest does not imply guilt, and criminal charges are merely accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty and convicted.
Hawthorn Woods police officers were dispatched to the scene at which point dispatchers received a second call, "from someone who sounded to be the same person," he said. The caller said his sister was inside the residence with him, he had a bomb and he was going to detonate it rather than surrendering, Covelli said.
A number of departments were called for assistance, and Hawthorn Woods Police Chief Jennifer Paulus also asked for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Team, he said.
Investigators determined the name the caller had used was a family that had moved from the Bluebird Court home a couple of months ago, and officers found they were safe, officials said. However, the family said they had been receiving harassing telephone calls throughout the day, Covelli said.
The tactical team made entry into the house and found no one home and nothing suspicious. The new occupants of the home arrived on the scene while the incident was taking place, he said.
Covelli said authorities are aware of the legislative changes.
"It’s a felony charge now," he said. "We will be poring through telephone records and internet records to find this individual."
Last year, Waukegan police swarmed an apartment on Sunset Avenue after a chilling 911 call was made by a man claiming he had stabbed a woman, bound her and was holding her hostage with a shotgun, police said.
Armed with AR-15 rifles, officers forced their way inside to find no such incident had taken place. One of the residents told police he believed the 911 call was a form of harassment because he was a registered sex offender.
Last year, when pushing House Bill 3988, state Rep. John Anthony, R-Morris, said he sponsored the proposal after taking note of an increasing number of incidents in which fake or exaggerated 911 calls been made, prompting large police responses.
"One of the reasons I (brought the bill forward) is, as a former sheriff’s deputy (in Kendall County), I’ve been on a couple of those calls myself," he said, recalling an incident in which a boy pranked his own home.
"Four or five police officers showed up and the mother was petrified, She had no idea what was going on," Anthony said, listing similar cases in Naperville, Pekin, Wheaton and three in Plainfield.