Hawley Police investigating fake hostage situation, part of 'swatting' scam

Published: Aug. 13, 2019 at 6:23 PM CDT
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A startling call for authorities in Hawley, Minnesota involving a hostage situation in town. But it turned out to be false and now authorities are hunting for the person who made that call.

Deputies quickly made their way to a home on the 1000 block of Hartford Street in Hawley Tuesday evening. They got a call from a man who said there was an active hostage situation in the home, and that he was armed and would hurt other people inside the house. When deputies got to the home they say a man was outside and he was briefly taken into custody. But officials quickly learned he had nothing to do with the call and fell victim to a scamming trend called ‘swatting.’ That's when deputies say someone deceives an emergency responder, requesting the help of police to another person's address. This can include bomb threats, murders along with hostage situations like what happened here.

Now this situation in Hawley, Minnesota isn't rare or new. In fact according to the FBI, at least 400 cases are reported each year and authorities want people to stop doing it because it can turn deadly.

That’s exactly what happened a couple years ago in Kansas when an officer shot and killed an unarmed man after police got a report that a man had shot and killed his family inside that home.

Police later determined he too fell victim to this swatting scam.

Authorities are now investigating to find out where the original call came from.


On 08/13/2019, at approximately 4:30 pm, a male caller made a phone call from an unknown number to Red River Regional Dispatch Center. The caller identified himself as the homeowner of a residence within 1000 Block of Hartford St. The nature of the call was that there was an active hostage situation occurring within his home. The male made reference that he was armed and would harm occupants of the home if he did not speak to a hostage negotiator.

Law Enforcement responded to the area, establishing contact with the male that was present outside of the residence. The male was briefly taken into custody without incident. There also female adolescent present outside of the residence and counseled by officers at the scene.

Law Enforcement that this was a fake call which is termed as “swatting”. According to Wikipedia: Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person's address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or other alleged incidents. It can also be triggered by a false report of a "mental health" emergency, such as reporting that a person is allegedly suicidal or homicidal and may or may not be armed.

These incidences are very serious that put several people’s lives in danger for no reason.

Law Enforcement will investigate and attempt to establish the origin of the phone call.

The Hawley Police Department was assisted by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota State Patrol.

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