Heavily armed police officers swarmed a townhouse in Montgomery County, Maryland. After receiving a call from someone who said he had just shot his girlfriend, officers shut down roads, ordered neighbors to shelter in place and prepared to rescue a hostage.
But the call turned out to be a hoax, and the homeowner says he has no idea why his home was targeted.
County police are investigating the incident as a possible instance of swatting, in which someone places a false call to get a SWAT team to respond.
A huge number of officers responded to the 3900 block of Ferrara Drive in Wheaton Thursday morning. A 911 caller said he shot his girlfriend. Officers prepared to respond to a possible hostage situation.
Officers surrounded the house and sent residents of the area a text message warning them to shelter in place. A nearby senior center locked its doors.
But no one was at the house.
The owner, Charlie Chalfant, was at work as an administrator in a Washington, D.C. school when police called him. He rushed home.
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"I just waited outside until they told me everything was clear," he said.
Chalfant, who previously worked as a sheriff's deputy in Virginia, said he had no idea why someone told police there was an emergency at his house.
Neighbor Erika Ortiz took shelter in her basement for an hour after an officer told her to head there. She was frustrated by the false report.
"It's stupid. It's stupid. They shouldn't be doing that," she said.
Swatting is dangerous and is a drain on police resources, Capt. Paul Starks said.
If police learn who placed the false call, they could be charged with making a false statement. It's a misdemeanor in Maryland and carries a maximum of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
An officer shot and killed a man in Kansas in January after someone placed a false call related to the man's house.