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Serial swatter who caused death gets five years in prison (krebsonsecurity.com)
126 points by parsecs 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments

Recent and related:

Man dies of a heart attack after minors swatted him over his rare Twitter handle - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27900825 - July 2021 (523 comments)

So evil, and for such a trifling thing. What a shame.

> Other victims of the group told prosecutors their tormentors further harassed them by making false reports of child abuse to social services local to the target’s area, and false reports in the target’s name to local suicide prevention hotlines.

> Eventually, when subjects of their harassment refused to sell or give up their Twitter and Instagram usernames, Sonderman and others would swat their targets — or make a false report to authorities in the target’s name with the intention of sending a heavily armed police response to that person’s address.

I know everyone wants to be upset at the "swatter" but few people seem to be upset that it is even possible. It shouldn't be possible to be murdered from a phone call.

"It's possible" because a functional society requires trust in the case of extremity and extreme situations are difficult to adequately plan for, difficult to test, and once set in their ways difficult to change for next time due to significant institutional inertia. (Which, before one starts, is not evil, it is inevitable, and part of management and problem-solving is understanding this.)

You can certainly be concerned about the procedures followed and whether they are wise or followed correctly. And should they be looked at and changed? Probably! Almost certainly! But somehow I doubt that the people who you are low-key castigating for their reaction towards the person breaking that societal trust are forgetting this. Most people are, after all, able to care about more than one thing at once.

But the proximate cause is that broken trust, and that the safety measures have not succeeded does not reduce the magnitude of that broken trust. That breaking of that trust is primarily alarming to people is not a particularly humane reason to adjust one's pince-nez and hrm at them.

We have door locks and passwords because you cannot blindly trust people. My bank asks for ID when opening an account because (in addition to KYC) it's not just going to trust me, a random customer. When I get pulled over, the cops ask for my license--they aren't just going to accept "I have a license. Trust me, bro". Imagine if everything worked on the honor system! Society would fall apart within hours. Trust-by-default just makes you vulnerable to being exploited by bad actors.

It's pretty scary that an unauthenticated, anonymous phone call from an unknown location is enough to cause an armed police response. Do a little investigation first to try to corroborate the claim before treating it seriously!

"Do a little investigation first to try to corroborate the claim before treating it seriously!"

If the police don't act swiftly enough and harm was to come to anyone they'd be criticised for not taking it seriously. Police can't win either way. If you were the person in need would you want an immediate response or a little investigation first?

The authentication system you're appealing to does not exist.

Neither of those things requires immediate response (in order of minutes), or lives are lost.

I’m as disgusted with this story as most seem to be, but I don’t think running KYC and asking for documentation of the emergency is a good idea for 999 calls.

Maybe a better analogy -- when I'm on call and get paged, my first response is not to immediately restart the servers. The immediate response should be to assess the situation, not jump straight to the most extreme approach.

Now you may quite reasonably point out that a page on a software system is seldom of the same weight as an emergency call to the police (true in my case -- money, not lives, have always been at stake in the systems I work on), but this ignores the reality that the "swarming with guns" approach _also_ can, and has, cost lives. So if anything, the higher stakes involved for police involvement is an even _stronger_ argument to take the extra time to properly assess the proportional response.

I guess I'm not disagreeing with this point of view.

Perhaps my conclusion would be, rather, that a SWAT team coming in to arrest someone shouldn't also lead to a heart attack situation. Maybe I'm being naive, and probably most people SWAT teams come to apprehend are super-dangerous, but it feels to me it shouldn't be a consideration.

In the age of the AI profiling a face in the crowd, it's very difficult to believe that some system to look up the caller ID cannot be brought to work.

AI is still dog shit for 99.9% of applications, we're not playing chess here. It would add an insane amount of complexity and points of failure for an edge case. If it even fucks up once it would need to be retired.

I know HN loves to think raw tech will save the world but come on... this is a societal problem, not a tech problem

Even if caller id had been used in this situation, he could have easily spoofed the number to appear to be coming from the neighbors house since they would have already had all the information necessary to do so. The Caller ID system you're thinking of simply does not exist. The current system is much to easy too spoof. Anyone with $15 and a VoIP number can do it.

Notably, the caller was identified, it seems. The problem wasn't identifying the caller, rather taking his accusation at face value.

Door locks do not exist to stop people who try to subvert them.

There is an argument that most passwords don't, either.

If that were true then why is this mainly a us phenomenon

> It shouldn't be possible to be murdered from a phone call.

It shouldn't be possible to be murdered at all. But phone calls can transmit arbitrary information to arbitrary parties. So it's going to pretty tough to limit any particular consequence of them.

GP isn't talking about any particular consequence of phone calls. It's talking about the specific consequence that, because American cops have a tendency to murder people instead of arresting them, you can use them as a hit squad with a simple phone call.

Like what happened here: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/12/kansas-man-killed-in-swa...

When I said "particular", I meant it as a synonym to "specific". If that's wrong, my apologies, but that's how I understand it.

You're correct, "particular" and "specific" are synonyms, and I concede that I might have been unclear. I'll try again.

What bothers me, and I imagine the original commentator, is that swatting works at all. It is deeply concerning that police in America are so reliably violent that they can be used as a fairly effective murder weapon.

Discussing the fact that communication mediums that allow arbitrary messages to be sent allows one to construct abstract scenarios in which such a transmission causes a chain of events that leads to someone's death feels like it misses that point.

It bothers me too. It's just that the part about the phone call doesn't seem relevant to me. If the caller had used text or video instead, the problem is the same.

Availability of military-style shoot-first-ask-later force to anyone is a problem, regardless of the communication mechanism used to request it.

Hm, I think the the other poster didn't really mean the put the communication medium in the spotlight here and was just referring to police brutality tongue in cheek.

That's my impression atleast, so I'd guess you agree.

Murder is generally bad, but making it generally impossible doesn't seem like a realistic goal though. IMO a slightly more approachable problem is the militarization of local police forces.

> I know everyone wants to be upset at the "swatter"

I feel sorry for everyone of the people in the discord channel.

Well before they “swatted” this guy an entire group of people whose lives are so devoid of meaning, opportunity, and hope they had organized to take social media handles to resell for a few thousand dollars (maybe a couple hundred per person once split amount the group).

Those focusing on the militarization of the police don’t appear any more sympathetic to the deceased than those responsible. This group was intent on ruining lives, and they successfully achieved that long before swatting him which resulted in his death. Swatting is just 1 of the tools this group used, if it didn’t exist they’d have used the next tool at their disposal, just look at the testimony from the other victims.

SWATting is typically using the resources of the state weaponized against someone else, for private means. The state shouldn’t delegate free resources like this at the whim of citizen. If citizen want to cause duress to each other, they should do it with private means, especially since it’s easier much harder or will get them arrested or will get them more conscious that they will definitely be caught.

But you’re also right concerning the boys. If society took proper care of them, instead of making IRL socialization for boys so miserable that a whole generation finds life through Discord more attractive, we’d have much fewer of those occurrences.

Is there an argument you can make that would be persuasive to ordinary people who believe that the police should be a public resource, as they are today, and that ordinary citizens shouldn't have to employ private security forces in order to resolve distress calls?

This isn't my observation. Every time this topic comes up, there is tons of (rightfully) critical comments about what the feasibility of this murder tactic says about the responding police and the system in general.

> It shouldn't be possible to be murdered from a phone call.

The man who died came at the police with a gun in hand. The police de-escalated the situation without any shots being fired, but the man was so startled that he had a heart attack.

I know police are not popular on HN, but so far I haven't seen any suggestions for what the police should have done differently, other than unrealistic suggestions that they ignore the call and not act on reports of a violent crime in progress. Note that it's called "swatting" but it doesn't appear an actual SWAT team was dispatched, just the local police responding to a call of a violent crime in progress.

Police showing up without SWAT doesn’t really describe the situation in full.

Walking home, I once saw a huge number of cop cars lights flashing on my parents property and was quite concerned. Only by getting close did I realize they where surrounding a burnt car. Lights flashing is reasonable for a traffic stop but it’s not sending a calming message. At the other end I had a cop calmly knocking on my door and everything from his posture to the force and rhythm he used was keeping the situation calm.

First case bank robbers abandoned and set fire to their getaway car in an empty field, the second someone handed in my cellphone to lost and found. First case had nothing to do with me and I was flipping out, second a cops at my front door and everything is calm.

Long story short, the description is quite a few cops where there which is inherently a very stressful situation.

Do you have a source on the gun in hand thing? That isn't mentioned in the linked article. The only information provided in this case is that he stepped out to investigate and then had trouble with a fence. Presumably if he had a gun he dropped it at some point between walking outside and crawling under the fence in an attempt to comply with police.

There was another article posted on HN yesterday with more information: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27900825

> "He went out the house with a gun, because he heard someone was on his property," Fitch explained. "He sees all these cops around him, and they ask if he is Mark Herring, 'put your hands up,' so he tosses the gun away from him to show he's not a threat, and [put his] hands up."

The police responded to reports of a violent crime in progress, confronted a man with a gun, and de-escalated the situation without any shots fired. There are a lot of bad assumptions in the comments on both articles assuming that the police shot the man, which isn't correct.

agreed. obviously the police should have never been there, but once they were involved, they had the power to prevent this by not, for example, demanding that this man "somehow climb over the fence with his hands up". this is the kind of nonsensical order that got Daniel Shaver killed in 2016.

What is your solution if police have to respond to the real crimes?

Ask questions before shooting.

One anonymous source is enough to justify the police putting resources towards investigating. Knocking on doors, calling phones, etc. It shouldn't be enough for even a 4th amendment search, let alone going in with guns blazing.

> One anonymous source is enough to justify the police putting resources towards investigating. Knocking on doors, calling phones, etc. It shouldn't be enough for even a 4th amendment search, let alone going in with guns blazing.

Police did not go in "with guns blazing". No shots were fired.

The person who died of a heart attack came outside to greet the police with a gun in hand. The police de-escalated the situation without any shots fired on either side.

In this case, yes. In many cases of swatting no. In this case, the heart attack is likely directly linked to the numerous cases were police did shoot people for no justifiable reason, and the victims fear that they would do the same to him.

The police did not de-escalate the situation, they gave orders both impossible to comply with, and in my opinion unconstitutional (they had no probably cause with which they could seize the victim), with the implicit threat that they would shoot the victim if he did not comply.

Exactly. It reminds me of the Tamir Rice incident. If cops rush in, primed to look for violent confrontation, they can easily find it.

I also saw this some in college after sports wins, where the local police turned peaceful, happy crowds into angry mobs by behaving aggressively. And then once they had people angry, that justified further escalation.

If you call the cops saying that you are being taken hostage by someone with a gun who is threatening to kill your family, I don't think it is unreasonable for the cops to bust down your door.

There are definitely emergency situations where knocking on neighbors' doors is not going to be fast enough.

Respectfully I disagree for two completely different reasons.

First that shouldn't be considered probable cause without some supporting evidence, especially given the well established practice of swatting. Supporting evidence here might be as simple as proof (beyond what swatters could spoof) that the call came from the house they're busting down the door of... or peaking in the window. If the police can't establish that a crime is probably happening, they shouldn't be busting down doors, even if that means that they are possible failing to prevent a crime.

Second, busting down the door in response to a hostage situation isn't even a reasonable response, that's just asking for the hostage to be killed... the appropriate response there is to establish what is actually going on, and only then consider violent action, but almost always to try and talk the hostage taker out... in your typical hostage situation the hostage takers want something and the police have all the time in the world, unlike the hostage takers the police can take shifts and get sleep.

Think of this along the lines of the doctors "first, do no harm" principle but applied to rescuing hostages.

The police in sweden this morning freed a hostage this morning at the cost of 20 pizzas, and while I haven't seen how discussed publicly got the other hostage free and the two criminals (back) in custody. Talking really does work...

PS: While I'm at it, can I recommend "never split the difference" as a good book on negotiation, with a side of hostage negotiation stories.

In the real cases where distress calls are made to the police, which must far, far outnumber "swattings", it's often the case that all the available "evidence" is contained in the phone call, which may itself be made under duress and with limited time. The police cannot reasonable dispatch a detective to look into the circumstances of a distress call.

Nobody busted down the doors here; in fact, in no US swatting fatality have the police ever busted doors down.

"First do no harm" is not a universal norm. It applies to medicine because so much of what happens in medicine is in some sense elective; there is an option not to intervene. No such option exists in distress call situations.

I don't think axiomatic reasoning is going to solve the problem of swatting. It's also noteworthy that, even in this case, it wasn't just the police who were tricked into intervening; the swatters got a strange man to break into the victim's house by spoofing messages on Grindr.

If the police can afford to dispatch a team of people with guns, and enough cars to fill up the street (in this case), they can afford to dispatch people to investigate. I do not accept your assertion to the contrary as true. It is the case that investigating instead of immediately reacting might allow crimes to occur that could have been prevented, but it seems to me to be what the constitution demands.

Certainly there have both been cases were US police busted doors in response to swatting, e.g. [1] and killed someone in response to swatting, e.g. [2]. Admittedly I'm not sure if they ever happened simultaneously, nor do I think that's relevant to any of the points I have made. The points I made were

- People have been killed while attempting to comply with police orders, which incidentally [2] is an example of (as well as an example of swatting).

- Busting doors during actual hostage situations would get people killed, not swatting. [3] is a particularly powerful example of that...

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVkQ-yheOEE

[2] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/wichita-officer-who-kil...

[3] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/video-four-dead-in-p...

No, they can't. The resource they're limited on isn't money, it's time. The window of time they have to respond to a genuine distress call is very small.

> If you call the cops saying that you are being taken hostage by someone with a gun who is threatening to kill your family, I don't think it is unreasonable for the cops to bust down your door.

All of these situations are very difficult and very dangerous. I don't agree in emergency situations that the police should wait, and I don't agree that police should be militarized either. There are dangers in both situations, waiting too long and have multiple armed men in APC turn up on your doorstep to kick butt.

So if we decided that waiting is not an option which I think is an acceptable stance to take, what level of force should be used in these situations becomes the question. Especially in this example where a phone call turned into an innocent death.

I don't know what the answer is, but it very concerning that this is happening.

> Ask questions before shooting.

And how do you see that working exactly ? You're fixing the 1 in a billion edge case and breaking 99% of the real world interventions

"Sir are you stabbing your gf by any chance?"

"Hm nope, you must have the wrong number, is this a swatting aha ?"

"ok nevermind, have a good night sir"

This is actually what the UK police does. The UK no special status in law when it comes to the use of such force. So police do not escalate since they know they will be questioned on the their use of force.

The US police are extremely trigger happy. Since they are a 'protected class'.

A 2 second google search shows swatting exists in the UK too. Call the cops and report any kind of serious armed crime going on in your house and I guarantee you they won't call the landline before showing up...


It seems like the police are guilty of negligence causing death in these sorts of instances.

Maybe we could stop shooting first and asking questions later? I don't recall any stories of this happening in other developed nations.

They didn't shoot in this case, he died from the stress of the event causing him a heart attack.

Also, this is only one last straw in a long string of harassment tactics, those on their own should be enough to be sent to jail in my opinion. Releasing public information, tricking cash on delivery to the person's address, making false reporting of child abuse to security services about the person, coordinating to have strangers unknowingly perform home invasion at their house, etc.

There might be something to be said about a swat team response, but let's not get distracted by what is a much more common and growing type of crime.

The police didn't shoot anyone.

The person who died came outside to greet the police with a gun in hand. The police de-escalated, but they continued to be cautious because they had received a call about a violent gun-related crime in progress.

You're correct, I confused this case with the other cases of swatting that resulted in death.

> I don't recall any stories of this happening in other developed nations.


Other countries don't have loose guns policies like we do, which means that more incidents will require armed response.

The US is a militarized police state where citizens are armed to the teeth. This is a natural consequence of that reality.

Genuinely curious, do you know how police would respond in a country with stricter gun control, if you called in a report that someone was armed with assault rifles and bombs?

Judging from my life experience as South Korean, it would go something like:

First, the police may flat out refuse to believe you (which is also a problem in its own, but in a country without guns, what's the probability that such a call is not a prank?)

Assuming the police decides it's somehow a credible threat, the police will most likely call for the help of the best trained, best equipped, elite anti-terror squad, because that's what they're trained for. It being such an unusual occurrence, the incident will certainly feature in that day's national news. Which also means that the officer commanding the operation knows their actions will be dissected to death by armchair quarterbacks - which might be a bad thing in general, but on the other hand, the officer will certainly NOT order anyone to "just bang on the door and start shooting." Their reputations and jobs are at stake.

And, in the 99% of case it turned out to be a prank, well, you can assume the police will do everything to swiftly find the perpetrator and bring them to justice - after all, the police office has a reputation to protect.

I honestly don’t know. I don’t live in a country with stricter gun control. I live in the United States.

I’m not blaming loose gun control alone. There has been an increasing militarization of the police in the US for at least the last 30 years. Is this happening because citizens are buying greater firepower? Are citizens buying greater firepower because the police are militarizing? Are these two things unrelated? Probably not, but I don’t know. My point is that mixing these two things together produces bad outcomes.

Lets take a situation where someone reports something like a shootout inside a house. What would you have the cops do in that situation?

If this is a real event, they don't go in quickly in order to confirm the situation and someone dies because of it would you blame the cops?

If your ONLY source is a single, anonymous phone call, you need to verify the situation before sending armed men to a random address. For example convince the anonymous caller to give up their anonymity or call the house you're concerned about and try to speak to people who live there

It is probably best to verify the situation on an anonymous call, but my point is people will absolutely blame the cops if they assess the situation and that extra time results in people dying.

The cops seems to be in a lose lose situation. If they go quickly without fully validating the situation they will be blamed for any death. If they take additional time to confirm the situation and that results in somebody dying they will be blamed.

There needs to be validation, but there also needs to be quickness. It is impossible to get the right mix of the two in a consistent manner.

>Lets take a situation where someone reports something like a shootout inside a house. What would you have the cops do in that situation?

How do they handle it in other countries?

>If this is a real event, they don't go in quickly in order to confirm the situation and someone dies because of it would you blame the cops?

Yes i would blame the cops, its the police job to handle the situation without causing someone to dies.

How exactly they should do is for the police to figure out.

You can't expect general public to figure out the solution.

>How do they handle it in other countries?

No clue. That is why I am asking for alternatives.

>Yes i would blame the cops, its the police job to handle the situation without causing someone to dies.

So if the cops go in too fast and it results in a death it is their fault? If they try to validate the information and somebody dies because of the slowness it is their fault?

That is just not practical. We can't just blame cops no matter what they do. We need to decide if going fast and risking lives in that way is preferable or if more fully assessing thr situation and risking lives in that way is better. Just blaming the cops no matter what is wrong.

>How exactly they should do is for the police to figure out.

>You can't expect general public to figure out the solution.

The police have a solution. People don't seem to like it since they go in without fully assessing the situation.

Since we live in a democratic republic (at least if you live in the US) the general public should decide on the solution.

>The police have a solution.

Then the solution is not good enough, they should figure out a better way.

>People don't seem to like it since they go in without fully assessing the situation.

bottom line what the general public want: the cop to handle the situation without causing death

>Since we live in a democratic republic (at least if you live in the US) the general public should decide on the solution.

The general public pay these police from tax to do certain job.

The general public should force whoever in charge of the police to be replaced if they don't do good enough job.

I think every one agrees that a cop killing an innocent during a swatting incident is bad, but like I said I am not sure if there is a better solution.

You will either get cops going in without fully assessing the situation or taking too long assessing the situation. Both of these ways will result in deaths. Cops can maybe assess the situation more then they currently do, but not fully as a middle ground but since cops are not perfect they will make mistakes.

The problem is it will never be perfect, but it seems like you are suggesting there is a way to make it perfect. That is holding cops to an impossible solution.

>I am not sure if there is a better solution

just because you are not sure doesn't mean there is no solution or doesn't mean no body else can't find the solution

>You will either get cops going in without fully assessing the situation or taking too long assessing the situation.

The fallacy is the assume there is only this two situation

>but it seems like you are suggesting there is a way to make it perfect

I never say or demand perfection, only improvement.

>That is holding cops to an impossible solution

You already assume the solution is impossible ?

If the police can't improve the situation then general public should demand whoever in charge to be fired/replaced.

While I fully agree w your sentiment the legal definition of “murder” is not what you’re implying it is.

It's "felony murder".

imagine not being able to separate a colloquialism with a legal definition

dont you think thats the most useless rebuttal? everyone knows that the context was “randomly killed without cause” not “do the courts count that kind of random killing without cause to be a crime of the killer”

colloquially, people say “murder” for emphasis, to emphasize their disdain for the action

It isnt productive to say “welllllll murder legally means” when the lowest hanging fruit is really to discuss their sentiment

Simply asserting that it’s possible to discuss an important issue without cheapening it w hyperbole.

Given how frequent that is with regard to the word murder, I wouldn't be surprised if the definition in all official dictionaries gets updated to include “vehement disapproval and acknowledgment of a killing regardless of legality”

Actually I’ll petition for that right now, since the stewards of those dictionaries probably noticed that context too and would be willing to do their part so that less conversations get auto-derailed

Unfortunately, its consequences of people allowed to have guns.

I would like to say that SWAT should never be the first response to a situation.

But the problem is that the first time somebody gets killed or harmed because the authorities took any amount of time to confirm the necessity of the response, you'll have people then asking why SWAT wasn't deployed to start with.

As with most things, the problem is people.

The SWAT team wasn't deployed here at all.

Then swap with "excessive police response" if you want.

The term "swatting" is derived from the acronym SWAT because originally, that was the goal, to get police to respond to targets with SWAT teams/tactics/gear.

The point remains, filling the street with police in response to an anonymous tip should not be the police's first response. A single car should suffice.

The police received a distress call about an armed assailant. There isn't anything disproportionate about sending multiple cars to respond to an event like that. Moreover, the victim of this attack was in fact armed, which certainly had something to do with how seriously the police took the event.

The simple fact is that the person who made this fake distress call intended to cause mayhem, predictably succeeded, and that mayhem killed someone. People who call in fake SWAT calls are culpable for homicide.

No one is trying to excuse them from blame.

We're discussing how to make this tactic less effective.

Because there is something disproportionate about sending multiple cars to respond to some guy just sitting in his house who didn't want to give up a twitter handle.

Also, I see nothing in the article about Herring being armed in general and especially nothing about him being armed during the encounter.

The fact of the matter is that the police had no clue as to the truth of the situation and responded based on nothing but a random phone call. That does have to stop.

They're not responding to some guy just sitting in his house who didn't want to give up his Twitter handle, obviously.

Did you read the article?

Mark Herring was the man who was swatted and died. He was swatted because he did not want to give up the @tennessee twitter handle. He was not armed and was even attempting to comply with police.

The problem is the militarization of the American police force. I have been on countless raids in both Iraq and Afghanistan and very rarely did we ever do “no-knock” type raids. Most of the time we just surround the compound, throw a banger in the front lawn and ask for the occupants to exit the building. Most of the time they did. So if “no-knock” raids weren’t the status quo in a war zone than it shouldn’t be the standard in American suburbs. This isn’t Fallujah…

In this case the man left his house with a firearm and the police did not shoot him — he had a heart attack. The harassment in this case was not just SWAT-ing, but also ordering pizzas, harassing relatives, etc.

Unfortunately, harsh sentencing and tougher enforcement/legal action against the perpetrators is probably the only way to stop the issue.

The police asked a fat old man to jump over a fence, and the. To crawl under it.

The police job is always descalation. After reading that story, it doesn’t feel like they de escalated anything.

There is probably a big difference between the type of training and procedures between the police in the US and the US army.

I don’t support militarization of the police, but the problem here is “poorly executed militarization”.

In Switzerland, anyone with sufficient training and mental capabilities can keep a gun at home.

In the US, any psycho without training can have a gun.

The problem isn’t the guns, but rather guns in the hands of idiots.

Same here with militarization of the police. We’re they to receive the same training as the US army, and abide by the same rules, they’ll probably do significantly less harm than what they do now.

Just FYI re: Switzerland and guns, because the gun nuts always bring it up, yet oddly enough always neglect to mention that ammo is RIDICULOUSLY well regulated in CH.

So, yes, folks who've done their Swiss military service have their gun at home. Sans ammo.

> We’re they to receive the same training as the US army, and abide by the same rules

At that point why not just replace the police with the army then?

You are absolutely right.

The is a different angle to consider.

Is it okay to shoot someone to protect life and or property?

Some feel it’s almost/never justified. Basically criminals can do whatever they want. (San Francisco)

Others feel it’s a moral responsibility to shoot. And that society is better if bad people fear being shot. (Texas)

People who do bad of course, have their own preferences.

A persons opinion on that is going to drastically affect their viewpoint on guns.

There is a minor defense that a lot of evidence police care about can be destroyed using this method as opposed to no knock raids, the army isn't concerned with jury trials. I don't think that's a good justification for 99% of no knock raids anyway though.

Does Swatting exist in any other country that is not the USA? Because I see two problems here, one is the criminal that make the calls, the other is what it seems a severely lack of training of the Swat teams.

Yes, but a big contributing factor is that the police in the US have a militarized wing, even in small towns. SWAT teams probably only need to exist in large cities, and even then, should rarely be utilized.

Exactly. Small town police departments, officers with little to no training, fancy military equipment at their disposal that they are itching to use. There's no wonder that so many random routine police encounters are escalated to injury or death.

It's somewhat tangential since this case didn't involve SWAT or the sheriffs, but I found this picture a bit comical:


The entire county has a population of about 166k.

That can't be a contributing factor here, since it doesn't appear that a SWAT team responded to this.

I don't see how this is a solution. I agree rarely should be utilized, but they certainly should be utilized if someone is being held hostage in their home or something like that. This is what SWATters capitalize on.

The problem is that people are only good at things that they do regularly (and often not even then). There are a lot of stories out there of terrible SWAT incidents or SWAT being deployed to to situations where it isn't warranted. Building up a militarized unit in a place that doesn't have much call for it creates a tendency to unnecessary use of force. Chekov's gunmen, basically.

So, because police aren't practiced at responding often to hostage incidents - they should just not send anyone at all?

Ultimately, you're going to have to have people deal with hostage situations, heavily armed organized crime, etc.

Not at all. If your interpretation of somebody's words yields nonsense, you should probably try for another interpretation.

I'm honestly trying to read between the lines because you are leaving too much unsaid.

What are you proposing is done if the police receive a call that seems to be from someone in a house saying there is someone taking their family hostage who says they are going to kill them?

How should we address irregular crimes that can require a rapid response?

We should centralize the "heavy response teams" until we hit a level of aggregation where they are being deployed relatively frequently (over a large area) and it makes sense to give them a lot of very specific training on those scenarios. Frankly, the National Guard is a fairly compelling option here for most states. There are already existing bases, they train in hostile shooter scenarios frequently, and they already have access to all the gear SWAT claims they need.

National average SWAT response time is an hour. Helicopters fly about 160mph. One military base could provide support for a lot of cities at once.

I'm not proposing anything in particular. I'm saying that treating things like a unverified phone call as requiring a rushed militarized response tends to lead to military outcomes, and this problem is exacerbated when you create militarized units in jurisdictions that don't have enough serious incidents that they can get good at it.

We can look in contrast at the British approach to policing where most cops are unarmed. What armed response units they have are highly trained and very closely supervised. The outcome? American cops kill people at 60x the rate English cops do. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/blog/2020/06/05/policekillings/

The US has a big problem with "We must do something! And rushing in with heavy force is something!" thinking. It's the same with car chases. For decades reformers have been slowly winding down the car chase because they have heavy collateral damage: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/07/police-pursuit-h...

How else are we supposed to arrest people high on Marijuana?

"Swatting" is a generic term for making a false report of a violent crime in progress at a target's address.

There wasn't literally a SWAT team deployed to this man's house, just the local police. And they didn't actually shoot him, contrary to what a lot of comments are suggesting. He came outside with a gun and they de-escalated. No shots were fired, but the stress of the situation caused him a heart attack.

To answer your question: The "swatting" technique isn't unique to the United States. It happens anywhere police respond to reports of violent crimes in progress, which is most places in the world.

I don’t have any data to support what I’m about to say, but I bet us swat teams get a lot more calls to legit violent situations because Americans have so many guns. So they probably roll up much more stressed than similar units in other developed countries.

That's not an appropriate punishment. This should have been first degree murder. There was intention to create risk of injury or death.

Also, there were other crimes committed that should have increased the severity of the crime.

1) This was an attempt to rob the victim of the "@tennessee" Twitter handle.

2) The perpetrator has done this before.

3) This was a false police report that put not only the victim, but also the police force in danger. It also reduced the ability of the police to respond to actual emergencies.

Totally underwhelming punishment.

I hope they can charge rest of this group as well. Unfortunately the person who actually called in the swat was a British minor so not sure how the law can be applied there.

> Unfortunately the person who actually called in the swat was a British minor so not sure how the law can be applied there.

The US prosecutes foreigners for crimes committed against Americans, overseas.

Him being a minor might prevent extradition, but the US has also sent agents to kidnap foreigners, in countries the US has an extradition treaty with, and drag them back to the US for trial when it was concerned that extradition wouldn't work, and the US courts have ruled that that is 100% acceptable.

I believe the judge said that they wanted to sentence him to more time, but the law limited it.

Part of the issue here was his agreement with the prosecutor to plead to one count of a crime, thereby leading to a maximum sentence of 60 months.

Had he been tried, found guilty and convicted of all counts of all crimes it’s likely the sentence would have been higher and the judge may have had latitude to order them served serially instead of concurrently.

I agree he should have got more, but murder 1 requires intent to kill.

> I agree he should have got more, but murder 1 requires intent to kill.

It does not where the felony murder rule applies, though false police reports in many jurisdictions are only misdemeanors. I would argue that a false police report of an imminent violent threat ought itself to be a felony.

(And even absent that, I’d argue that a swatting leading to death clearly is depraved-indifference murder—usually 2nd or 3rd degree depending on the particular statutory scheme, US jurisdictions vary on this—at a minimum.)

Felony murder is still not 1st degree murder, though.

> Felony murder is still not 1st degree murder, though.

Yes, it generally is (the felony is an alternate way to fulfill the malice aforethought element, in place of premeditation.) Though I suppose some statutory schemes may distinguish them.

Serious question - if I shoot a gun wildly at a house, my goal being to scare people, and I accidentally kill someone, would the law consider that murder with intent? Because that's what swatting is.

The law would likely find that somewhere between Negligent Manslaughter and Murder without Intent assuming it was truly random and you didn't plan it beforehand. If you did plan to shoot "randomly" at your house, it could support a premeditated murder charge but it would be unlikely. Whether or not you think Swatting is planned in this parallel is up to you, but it isnt a great comparison.

Honestly it's probably a case-by-case thing, and debatable. A lot of it is down to the motives of the people involved, and I think swatting really hits on a grey area. With any sort of "potentially lethal indirect action" like this, there are some people who genuinely do wish to kill the victim, but are scared enough of legal consequences that they're trying to hide behind an act of "plausible deniability" - they're too scared to do a cut-and-dry "this is agreed upon by society to be murder" act, and/or they want to do something where they're likely to be undetected. A lot of times they genuinely want to keep living their life, but specifically want to off this other person because they feel like their life would be better with that person out of it (i.e. the motivator behind many duels, or many poisonings of spouses, etc).

The second big thing is a grey area of "quasi-lethal intent", which is as old as humanity. Perhaps the classical example of it is King David "willfully endangering" Uriel, the husband of Bethsheba, in order to get him out of the way in order to adulterously claim her as his own. It's a fuzzy motivation - did he really mean to kill him outright, or perhaps merely to cripple him, or just simply "get him out of the picture" by sending him off on a distant military campaign? He knew quite well it could end up lethal, and it did. The reality is we just don't know where the motive fell - we do know that no matter what, it was a very bad motive, that was close to being murderous; we just don't know if it was "the full monty".

I think a lot of swatting and such is like that. It could be a laissez-faire "if he dies, he dies" attitude, or it could be lethal intent. Without mindreading, we can't tell the difference.

Either one's pretty bad, and at the very least, I feel like the former is pretty cut-and-dry "manslaughter". I think we've got a few degrees of murder it also qualifies for - in fact, I think the description of what is often "third degree murder (aka Depraved-Heart murder)" is pretty close:



> if I shoot a gun wildly at a house, my goal being to scare people, and I accidentally kill someone, would the law consider that murder with intent?

Probably depraved indifference murder, unless shooting the gun at the house was a felony, then probably felony murder.

IANAL, but absent specific intent to kill, I suspect you’d be looking at a manslaughter or negligent homicide charge, but in the rare jurisdictions that have third-degree murder, that might apply.

I thought that murder is pre-meditated, and if it's not pre-meditated it's manslaughter.

There are different crimes that are called murder. Pre-meditated murder with intent is often called first-degree murder but there are other crimes. Killing anyone during the commission of any felony - or even having someone accidentally killed as a result of the felony crime - can be felony murder in some states. In any case there are also other murder charges where there is intent but it was not premeditated (crime of passion - often called second degree murder) and there are may be crimes called murder where there is for example aggravated assault with disregard for human life that kills someone even if death was not the intent. Maybe that is third degree murder.

Yeah, from reading up on it, this is often classified as "Third Degree" murder:



At least in theory cops have agency and the ability to assess wether or not throwing a man into cardiac arrest is actually a requirement at any given situation.

How are they not being prosecuted too?

Because they came into the situation intending to save lives, not take them.

  Billings said she first learned of the swatting when a neighbor called and asked why the street was lined with police cars. When Mr. Herring stepped out on the back porch to investigate, police told him to put his hands up and to come to the street.

  Unable to disengage a lock on his back fence, Herring was instructed to somehow climb over the fence with his hands up.

  “He was starting to get more upset,” Billings recalled. “He said, ‘I’m a 60-year-old fat man and I can’t do that.'”
By that point it should have been clear to anyone in posession of a brain in the vicinity that the guy did not represent a threat and his life could have been saved. It wasn't the case.

Oddly enough, killing a person is also a crime if you didn't want the situation to play like that. It's called manslaughter when you do it, why is it not for the police?

Then we need to fix the penal code. Recklessness for human life isn't adequately punished, which is why swattings won't stop, and why drunk drivers are permitted to continue killing people.

> drunk drivers are permitted to continue killing people.

Driving drunk, and killing people, are both illegal. What is being permitted, exactly?

The punishment for drunk driving in US is piddling, because, you know, lack of intent.

In Cali, there's what they call a "Watson Murder" wherein someone with a previous DUI or "implied malice" will be hit with essentially a second degree murder charge.

That said, I do think punitive acts against drunk driving may not change much so long as it's much more cheap/convenient to drive yourself instead of using public transit/rideshares/carpooling. There's also the issue of binge drinking being so commonplace in the States.

MADD says that the first successful attempt at someone's life in Cali while under the influence earns you at most 4 years in jail: https://www.madd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Vehicular-Ho...

In civilized countries, the minimum sentence for manslaughter is 5 years, and that's handed out when two friends are blind drunk and one stabs the other while arguing about soccer.

Your link says 0-10 years for Cali... Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated is up to 10, and a previous Watson advisement for any sort of DUI could make it murder.

It isn't nearly enough time, he'll be out in 2 years. He fucking killed someone and he's walking away with a slap on the wrist. Fuck that guy.

> Judge Norris said he was giving Sonderman the maximum sentenced allowed by law under the statute — 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, but implied that his sentence would be far harsher if the law permitted.

So, it seems like statute requires updating to increase the maximum sentence permitted for such crimes. Another question is: would that dissuade these attacks by these actors? I'm unsure.

Call your representative(s). While the American justice system leaves much to be desired, I don't think more time for effectively ordering a hit through social engineering is excessively punitive. Ross Ulbricht of Silk Road fame is doing far more time, in part, for paying someone to perform a hit that didn't take place (it was a factor in affirming his life sentence) [1] [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Ulbricht#Trial

[2] https://www.wired.com/2017/05/silk-road-creator-ross-ulbrich...

> Ross Ulbricht of Silk Road fame is doing far more time just for attempting to pay someone to perform a hit.

I’m fairly sure those charges were dropped and did not come up at trial.

No, they definitely did. They were an explicit predicate to the conspiracy charge.

Paying a killer is obvious proof of intend. We consider intentional acts to be far worse than unintended consequences.

Say you’re on your way to pay the murder-for-hire when you accidentally run over your intended victim while checking HN on your phone. You admit to everything. Which part should contribute more to your prison sentence?

There's no probation in the federal system. He will serve the 60 months.

Agreed. Should be same punishment as a murder for hire. Didn't pull the trigger, but the intent from the swatter was there.

Let's please make an example of these lowlifes that think abusing public safety resources is an acceptable way to "get" people they disagree with.

While I despise these very online losers taking their failure at life out on everyone happier or more successful than them, and especially those they believe to deserve less status than them, It just doesn’t follow that deserve to be punished at the levels murders tend to get.

Even though there have been a few cases such as this, the victim’s death is just too rare to assume that that as the intended outcome. A swat raid on an innocent person should, in any civilized society, never end with death. For vast swaths of the democratic world, that’s also our experience, proofing that it’s not impossible.

It’s a negligent homicide, and I would place a significant chunk of the guilt on the police. Punishing them so,klar to, say, drunk drivers that kill someone seems about right. And two years in prison aren’t a “slap on the wrist”.

It's much more than a negligent act, this is active intentful criminal activity. If you're going to put people in jail for selling weed, but do nothing to someone performing continuous online harassment such as release of private information on public channels, false reports of child abuse, swatting, sending false deliveries to their home, bad mouthing them to their friends, stealing of their online accounts through sim swapping, and all that, well dammit something is definitely wrong.

And the harassment in this case isn't even trolling or a grudge between two people, this is harassment for ransom of property and valuable assets from the target, in this case, valuable Twitter handles.

> It isn't nearly enough time, he'll be out in 2 years. He fucking killed someone and he's walking away with a slap on the wrist. Fuck that guy.

You're being downvoted. I cannot fathom the kind of thought process it takes to downvote you for this statement.

This was a heinous crime that should have been prosecuted as first degree murder.

I downvoted that post because it's just not correct: federal sentences have not been eligible for parole since 1987 and good-behavior releases are rarely if ever that significant of a reduction. I also downvoted it because ill-informed hauteur doesn't vibe--I mean, if you are going to be outraged, and there are many things (many of which go uncommented-upon here!) to be outraged about, a substantial point that furthers a discussion is pretty important.

I downvoted your post because complaining about downvotes is frowned upon here. (I've done it. I got downvoted for it. It's how it goes.)

> This was a heinous crime that should have been prosecuted as first degree murder.

this thinking lets people escape convictions that would've been a sure thing if they were prosecuted for second degree.

"first degree" doesn't just mean "we punish them more", there are specific requirements for it. and if the facts don't fit the requirements, the defense will explain that _very_ _clearly_ to the jury and you'll have a difficult time getting a conviction. juries are not as excited about handing out first degree murder convictions as you might think.

It's factually incorrect that he'll be out in 2 years.

That's a nitpick. Even five years is a pittance for taking someone's life. In this manner. After attempting to steal from them and harass them. And after showing a history of this kind of abuse directed at other human beings.

I agree, but it's getting downvoted because it's wrong.

Darknet Diaries' latest episode covers this exact same scenario. It includes the story of someone getting harassed by cybercriminals through SIM attacks, pizza deliveries, threatening relatives, threatening SWATing, and other evil behavior.


Coincidentally, the latest episode of Darknet Diaries tells the story of a similar victim.[0] Again, the goal was to capture their Instagram username. Similar antics employed. Fortunately, it doesn’t end in tragedy.

[0] https://darknetdiaries.com/episode/97/

I came looking to see if anyone had posted this. The thing that got to me about that episode was the complete lack of empathy (mild spoiler, I suppose) shown at the end, which is probably also more than evident in the OP's tragic conclusion.

Edit: deleted

Reacted before getting the facts right, my bad

Read the article. The police did not kill the man. He died of a heart attack after he dropped the weapon. Not that police don't kill plenty of other innocent people in all kinds of fuckups, but please get the facts right.

It seems like the crime at play here was Doxxing. The one who actually made the Swatting-call was some unnamed minor from the UK.

At least according to the article, the crime in question was conspiring to swat him.

Nothing particularly new here. That's generally how you convict people who get other people to do their dirty work.

There's a fair number of people complaining about the law setting him at 60-months in prison.

Well, the __solution__ is to talk about how we should rewrite the law. To rewrite the law, we should first understand this case entirely.

This is just one man in an entire conspiracy group who seemed to seek profits from conducting ransom attacks. If you don't pay a ransom, you'll be doxxed and somebody out there will probably SWAT you for fun.

There's levels of indirection here, as if they're trying to minimize the hit they'll take as they go to jail. And it seems largely successful. So the next step is to start making proposals for how the law should be written (and then to get those drafts to the lawmakers).

This is a non-political issue that won't really get stuck. I'm simply trying to start the political process and law crafting needed to fix this problem in the future.

Is the problem on Discord for having unsupervised meetup spots where these kinds of conspiracies can grow? How do people join groups like this? Is there a way we can get the Police to attack these groups before further incidents come out? Etc. etc.

He was the main lead, doxxing was one of his works leading to more. The trigger man in this case was a minor

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