British Columbia

'Swatting' hoax shooting threats in Florida prompts arrest of Coquitlam teen

A 17-year-old has been arrested in Coquitlam, B.C., after allegedly making a hoax threat to "shoot everyone" at a Florida high school, just to get a SWAT team to respond.

Police SWAT team forced to respond to calls

Florida police provided this picture of accused 'swatting' suspect from Coquitlam, B.C., with his face blurred as he is a minor. (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

A 17-year-old has been arrested in Coquitlam, B.C., after allegedly "swatting" a Florida high school and also pulling a similar hoax in which police had to race to a Florida home believing that someone had murdered his family.

The teen suspect, who cannot be identified, is accused of calling the sheriff's office in Polk County, Fla., in Sept. 2014 and saying he would drive to Fort Meade High School in a black Jeep Cherokee and "shoot everyone" with an AK-47.

The threat, known as "swatting," was a hoax intended to get a police SWAT team to respond to the school, according to the Polk Sheriff's Office.

Police quickly responded, placing the school on lockdown, and spent several hours searching for an armed suspect.

"It's very dangerous, and it's dangerous because you've got deputies speeding on the road trying to get to this event because we have no choice but to believe it's real," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

A student at the high school recalls the hoax felt real to some at the time.

"A bunch of people were scared because when the lockdown happens, everybody freaks out,  they think something bad is going to happen," said Austin Cartwright, 18, a senior at Fort Meade High School.

'It's just a stupid thing to do...over a girl

The investigation revealed the call came from Canada — from a teen trying to get revenge on a Florida girl he'd met online, said Judd.

They had "an online dating relationship, at least in his mind." The teen wanted more, she rejected him, and he retaliated, said Judd.

Prior to the calls, he told the Florida girl he was going to "swat" her school over email — details she only revealed to police later.

"When we found out it was somebody from Canada we were like, 'Why would somebody from Canada frighten a school in little ol' Fort Meade?' I mean, we only have one red light here in the whole town," said Cartwright.

The female Fort Meade student has changed schools as a result of the hoax threats, said Cartwright.

"It's just a stupid thing to do, especially over a girl."

Threatened to 'blow everyone up'

The hoax calls continued. In October 2014, he again made threats to the girl's school, saying he would "blow everyone up." Police again responded.

He was aggravating the stew out of everybody.- Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd

In November 2014, he allegedly pulled a similar hoax on the girl's home in Winter Haven, Fla., east of Tampa.

Police raced to the suburban home in the middle of the night, after a young man called saying he was inside the house, had killed his parents, and would kill any officers who came to the scene.

Investigators determined the calls and emails had been coming from Canada. But it was slow to get any response working through federal agencies across borders, said Judd.

Florida police finally contacted Coquitlam RCMP directly, for more "urgent action," said the sheriff.

"He was aggravating the stew out of everybody," Judd told CBC News.

From there, RCMP responded quickly, executing a search warrant on the teen's home Saturday, said Judd.

The teen has been charged in Canada with one count of extortion, three counts of public mischief, and three counts relating to breach of probation. He is scheduled to appear in court this week.

Florida officials won't be seeking extradition as the accused is a minor.

They do plan to pursue civil action to recoup thousands of dollars in wasted police resources, according to Judd.

With files from Terry Donnelly and Yvette Brend