Utah County teen made 'swatting' threats throughout country, police say
The practice puts police, targets in 'real danger,' agent says
Cristina Angulo, For the Deseret News
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Neighbors say he looked like a "computer nerd" who was quiet and couldn't hurt anybody.
Friday, residents were in shock as the FBI and Saratoga Springs police announced that the "quiet" 16-year-old boy had been arrested in connection with a bomb threat on the first day of school at Westlake High School on Tuesday.
In addition, police believe the teen is responsible for several "swatting" incidents across the country.
But while investigators say they did not find any evidence of weapons or bomb-making materials at the boy's Saratoga Springs house following the execution of a search warrant on Thursday, he now faces serious potential felony charges of making terroristic threats involving a weapon of mass destruction, 911 abuse, and several threats of violence.
"There have been other incidents by this person that we uncovered during our investigation — multistate incidents. Several states around the country, from one side of the United States to the other, where he has made similar threats," said Saratoga Springs Police Cpl. Matt Schauerhamer.
Swatting is when a person contacts 911 making a false report of an incident and uses a voiceover IP address to cover their tracks. In some cases, Schauerhamer said, a person will do a swatting incident to get back at someone by having police or even SWAT officers respond in force to that person's house, even though there is no problem.
In the Westlake case, police say some "fairly sophisticated techniques" were used by the teenager in an attempt to cover his IP address and Skype account.
On Tuesday, police say the teen not only made a bomb threat at Westlake High, but he also threatened to open fire on anyone who defused the explosives in addition to demanding $10 million ransom. Later, Schauerhamer said, threats against Saratoga Springs police officers and their families were made on a Facebook account created by the teen.
Saratoga Springs police worked in conjunction with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and served a search warrant on the boy's home about 5 p.m. Thursday. The boy lives more than a mile away from the school, Schauerhamer said. Computers and other electronic equipment were seized from the house.
'Didn't fit in'
Allie Hess, who lives in the boy's neighborhood, said she and her husband immediately knew something big was happening when law enforcement arrived. It was like a scene from a movie, she said.
"It was kind of freaky actually. It's like it's not just the police, it's the FBI," she said. "All these FBI, (my husband) knew it wasn't just someone doing drugs."
Hess said police were still at the boy's house five hours after they arrived.
"They brought a kid out on the porch over there. He had glasses, wearing a red and gray shirt, had no idea what was going on," said neighbor Jessica Allred. "They were just sitting there interviewing him for the longest time, at least an hour. I don't know if that was the kid or not."
While officials were not releasing his name Friday, they said he is a former Westlake student who was taking online classes this school year and no longer had any affiliation with the school. It was unknown Friday if he had any particular grudge against the school that may have prompted his threat.
"This suspect we had never dealt with, ever," Schauerhamer said. 'We were surprised to learn that this kid did it."
The boy's mother said her son confessed to her on Friday, saying he thought the bomb threat would be funny.
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