SAN DIEGO — A 15-year-old boy was taken into custody after bomb threats were made against his school in what police said was part of a scheme by online gamers to unnerve authorities with hoaxes in at least six states and Canada.
San Diego police said Thursday that the calls were made as part of a group that issued similar threats in Georgia, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois and two cities in Ontario, Canada. The suspect was placed in juvenile hall after police investigated threats against San Diego's Point Loma High School, where the teen is a 10th-grader.
The group met online to play a game and, at the same time, make threatening calls using Skype, an online communication service that allows users to communicate by voice, video and instant message over the Internet, and make phone calls, said Lt. James Keck. Players could hear other people in the group making the threats.
Three or four other arrests have been made this year in the "swatting" investigation, said Keck, who expects additional arrests as investigators identify participants through Internet addresses and other records.
"Swatting," which captured headlines several years ago when celebrity homes were targeted in Los Angeles, plays off the idea of issuing a threat that draws a SWAT team in response. It appears to have originated with pranksters in the online gaming community.
In San Diego, someone called a police dispatcher April 5 to say someone would come to Point Loma High School the next day with guns and explosives.
"We pulled detectives away from Easter Sunday with their families," Keck said. "We took it very seriously."
Police received two similar calls the next day and put the school on lockdown for about an hour before determining it was a hoax, Keck said.
The suspect, who was not identified because of his age, was arrested Wednesday and will be charged with falsely reporting an emergency, said Keck, who declined to say what game the group played. He said the motive for the threats was unclear and that targets were not limited to schools.