A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team surrounded the home of an executive of Bellevue, Washington-based game developer Bungie after police received an anonymous tip he "had an assault rifle and he had placed explosives in the yard and he was holding a family hostage.”
The predawn incident Thursday, an example of what is sometimes called "Swatting," occurred in King County, Washington, officials said.
“It was so loud and it lasted for 45 minutes. A very long time," neighbor Janette Gould told KOMO 4 TV. "It's very unusual. We never have airplane activity in this neighborhood.”
The Bungie exec was the latest victim of Swatting, an incident where authorities are tricked into dispatching a SWAT team based on a false report.
“The caller said he had an assault rifle and he had placed explosives in the yard and he was holding a family hostage," Nathan Elledge, chief of police at the Sammamish Police Department, said. "He wanted $20,000 to release the family."
When police arrived, there was no emergency, just the Bungie executive sleeping inside with his family. It reportedly took nearly an hour for police to assess the situation and determine there was no real danger inside.
“They haven't been able to unravel the knot of where it comes back to," said Deputy Jason Houck, of the King County Sheriff's Office. "They were able to tell there were no bombs in the yard, no one with a rifle holding the family hostage." The Bungie exec was able to discuss the matter with authorities, and police say he seemed very confused about what was going on.
A Bungie spokeswoman said the victim and his family weren’t harmed in the incident, but police are still looking for the perpetrator, who could faced up to a year in jail, along with a $5,000 fine. They also believe the caller has ties to the gaming community.
“This is not a game. This is a very serious response that could've had serious consequences and we're just fortunate that didn't happen this time," Elledge said. "It puts officers' lives at risk when you respond to something this serious. It puts the citizens' lives at risk."