KEY POINTS

  • Officers in tactical gear raided a Twitch streamer 
  • Swatting is a federal crime in the US
  • Prank calls have turned deadly in the past 

An unsuspecting New Jersey gamer live streaming a game of Fortnite to his hundreds of thousands of followers was surprised by armed SWAT team members who were falsely alerted about a crime. 

On Wednesday, the home of Louis Sammartino, a Twitch gaming streamer was raided by a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team during a live stream. It soon turned out to be a case of "swatting," the false reporting of an emergency to public safety, according to 911.

Swatting, a federal crime, involves people falsely accusing that the victim is a murderer, kidnapper, holding someone hostage or has a bomb among other things. Police acting on the information often respond with a SWAT team to a location where no real threat exists. 

Recent incidents have prompted the FBI to warn that swatting often motivated by revenge or used as a prank or harassment is a serious crime and may have deadly consequences. “Confusion on the part of homeowners or responding officers has resulted in health-related or violent consequences and pulls limited resources away from valid emergencies.” 

Sammartino's viewers flooded his chat as several police officers in tactical gear and one carrying a riot shield appeared on the screen. The officers were seen walking around the recording space while shining flashlights around and scanning the area.

Sammartino later returned to his stream and said he had no idea who was behind the swatting incident, reported GamingBible, a gaming news website.

"I'm a little rattled," he said. "I don't know what you guys saw, what happened... [someone] literally swatted my house." Sammartino runs the handle LosPollosTV has almost 600,000 followers on Twitch. No one was injured during the raid, reported Insider. 

In 2015, the “Interstate Swatting Hoax Act” was passed by Congress, making swatting or “using false communications with the intent to create an emergency response” a federal crime.

In 2020, 60-year-old Mark Herring from Tennessee died of a heart attack after a swatting incident called by two teenagers over a Twitter handle row. The minors were attempted to force him to hand over his Twitter handle name @Tennessee.

"I believe he was scared to death," said Corinna Herring Fitch, daughter of the victim to NBC news. "I believe from the adrenaline and the guns in his face ... a heart attack happened." Herring was allegedly shocked and confused as the SWAT team swarmed his property with guns drawn.

Last year in April Herring was also harassed via text messages, calls and cash-only pizza delivery. Following this, a minor from the UK called the police and reported a fake murder in Herring’s summer home. One of the swatters, now 18-year-old Shane Sonderman, found Herring’s address and his co-conspirator from the UK made the call. 

Sonderman was arrested with wire fraud/conspiracy, interstate communication of threats, false information and hoaxes, and conspiracy charges. He was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges and was charged as an adult. But, his accomplice was not extradited to the US. 

SWAT team Members of a SWAT team inside a police vehicle. Photo: Reuters