RIVERSIDE – A 16-year-old Canadian boy was suspected of phoning in false bomb threats, reports of hostage situations, and other bogus emergencies that led to lockdowns at schools in Riverside and cities throughout North America, federal officials said on Saturday, May 10.
An investigation by the Ottawa (Canada) Police Service, FBI, Riverside Police Department and other law enforcement agencies culminated in the youth’s arrest in Canada Thursday, May 8. His name was not released because of his age.
According to Canadian authorities, the teenager is facing 60 criminal charges, including public mischief, uttering death threats, and conveying false information with the intent to alarm. The general purpose term for the boy’s alleged actions is “swatting,” authorities said.
“‘Swatting’ is a term used to describe criminal activity by an individual or group who knowingly provide false information to police suggesting that a threat exists at a particular location so that police respond with tactical units,” Laura Eimiller of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office said. “Making false threats drains law enforcement resources and can cause significant distress or physical injury to first responders or victims.”
Occasions when the boy allegedly phoned in spurious threats to Riverside were not immediately clear. According to investigators, the calls led to SWAT officers being dispatched and schools being locked down or evacuated until an investigation was completed.
“The nature of the false threats received by the schools varied,” Eimiller said. “In some cases, police were falsely warned of explosives, hostage-taking and the threat of an active shooter.”
Other places in the U.S. allegedly targeted by the teen include Stockton, Greenwich, Connecticut, Watervliet, N.Y. and three Florida cities, Orlando, Tampa and Melbourne, according to the FBI.
“In this case, the subject is a suspect in at least 30 North American occurrences,” said Ottawa Police Service Staff Sgt. Rick Baldwin-Ooms. Electronic devices were seized, as were guns and ammunition, during a search of the teen’s home, police said.
The boy was due to appear in court in Ottawa on Monday, May 10.