A 16-year-old Canadian has been arrested on charges he used the Internet to create false reports of hostage situations in cities around the United States and Canada, including Greenwich.
According to an FBI statement, Canadian law enforcement officers arrested a suspect linked to multiple “swatting”-style attacks that victimized schools in North America and led to lockdowns or evacuations of impacted schools.
The teen, whose name is not being released because he is a minor, was arrested by members of the Ottawa Police Service on Thursday, May 8, following an international investigation that involved multiple Canadian and American law enforcement partners.
The suspect has been linked to threats received by schools in multiple American cities that prompted responses by law enforcement in the following areas: Riverside, CA; Stockton, CA; Montgomery County, MD; Melbourne, FL; Orlando, FL; Greenwich, CT; Tampa, FL, and Watervliet, NY. The nature of the false threats received by the schools varied. In some cases, police were falsely warned of explosives, hostage-taking, and the threat of an active shooter.
The Greenwich incident on April 17 involved a report that an armed person had taken hostages in a Round Hill Road home. The call prompted a full turn-out by the Greenwich Police Department's Special Response Unit, which after several hours, deemed the report a hoax.
Swatting is a term used to describe criminal activity by an individual (or group) who knowingly provides false information to police suggesting that a threat exists at a particular location so that police respond with tactical units. Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and can cause significant distress or physical injury to first responders or victims.
According to Staff Sergeant Rick Baldwin-Ooms, of the West District Investigation of the Ottawa Police, “In this case, the subject is a suspect in at least 30 North American occurrences.”
The teen has been charged with 60 criminal offenses that include public mischief, mischief to property, utter death threats, and convey false information with intent to alarm, according to an Ottawa Police statement. Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act prohibits public identification of the suspect.
The teen was scheduled to appear at the Ottawa Court for a show cause hearing last week.
The residence of the young person was searched and data transmission and communication devices were seized for further analysis along with firearms and ammunition, according to the Ottawa police statement.