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‘Swatting’ is the story I can’t stop thinking about

Wichita police investigate a call of a possible hostage situation near the corner of McCormick and Seneca in Wichita, Ks Thursday night 12/28. A man was fatally shot by a police officer in what is believed to be a gaming prank called "swatting." (Fernando Salazar /The Wichita Eagle via AP)

The “swatting” incident in Kansas is the story I can’t stop thinking about.

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“Wichita police officers believed they were responding to a hostage situation when Andrew Fitch was shot dead after he appeared to be reaching for a weapon.”

Swatting is when someone calls the SWAT team just for fun. And you say where’s the fun in that?

Well, it’s apparently a thing with video gamers.

Thanks to advanced game technology, you can now watch live video of the gamers you’re playing against, and apparently there’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing the guy who just fake-shot you being held at gunpoint in his bedroom by real cops with real guns.

This is another symptom of what I call Persistent Technology-Induced Adolescence. The tendency of game technology to keep certain young males in a permanent state of jerkdom.

And it’s all innocent fun until someone gets hurt — which is what happened in Kansas, where the cops not only surrounded the house but shot and killed the guy who opened the door to see what was going on — because the person who made this fake call said he was pointing a gun at his mom and his brother.

“I’m just pointing the gun at them, making sure they stay in the closet; my mom and my little brother.”

“OK. Is there any way you can put the gun up?”


So the cops go in thinking there’s a guy about to kill someone.

And that’s where this gets really scary. That poor guy who opened the door and got shot was us.

The cop shot a guy who could have been any of us. Because the address, which was in Wichita, Kansas, had been picked at random by a guy in Los Angeles.

The unarmed victim at the door got shot because his address was randomly picked for reasons too stupid to be worth our time, and then the random address was planted in the 911 system so the local Wichita 911 dispatcher had no idea the call was actually was coming from LA, 1,300 miles away.

Now think about that for a moment. We pay for a 911 system that can be fooled into displaying a false address. Hackers can make calls to 911 appear to be local from anywhere in the world.

So you have hackable 911 and SWAT teams who believe whatever the caller says. That’s a really bad combination.

If we’re training SWAT teams to believe what the caller says, then the 911 system had better be un-hackable.

As for the person now under arrest for that call, he’s an accessory to murder. And if he ever gets out of jail, he should be banned from any contact with any kind of computerized telephone.

And you’ll say, Dave, that’s harsh. Not even an old iPhone4?

No! Nothing.

And you’ll say, but Dave, what if he’s ever in danger and needs a cop?

He can look for a pay phone. I believe I saw one a few years ago.

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