Canada

Charges possible for Ohio man who allegedly swatted police in the wrong Ottawa

A 20 year-old man from Akron, Ohio, is facing potential swatting-related charges after calling in a bomb threat to police in the wrong Ottawa.

Ottawa police facing increased swatting attempts connected to convoy protest, says chief

A protester affixes a flag to the top of a truck, parked beside another with a sign calling for the jailing of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

A 20 year-old man from Akron, Ohio, is facing potential swatting-related charges after calling in a bomb threat to police in the wrong Ottawa. 

The individual — whose name has not yet been released — only realized he reached police in the wrong Ottawa on Monday after calling a second time to claim he had been shot, according to Ohio's Putnam County Sheriff's Office Captain Brad Brubaker.

"As soon as the dispatcher advised him he called Ohio … he said, 'Wait, wait, I'm not shot,'" Brubaker told CBC News. 

Swatting refers to prank calls to emergency services claiming life-threatening situations to trigger an armed police response to a specific location.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is located in Ottawa, Ohio, which sits about 950 kilometres southwest of Ottawa, Canada's capital city.

Brubaker said the man used Google to try to find the number for police in Canada's capital, which has become international news as a result of a convoy protest over vaccine mandates that has paralyzed the city's downtown core. 

But the man picked the wrong Ottawa police number.

"He didn't pay attention, he picked out our number and called and started reporting the threat," said Brubaker. "He wanted to call Ottawa police in Canada because he disagrees with the mask mandate."

More than 7,000 demonstrators arrived in the nation's capital nearly two weeks ago, according to police, and an estimated 400 to 500 heavy trucks still remain there. 

During a special city council meeting in Ottawa on Monday, Deputy Chief Steve Bell mentioned there was a U.S. investigation of an Ohio-based swatting threat to the force's city headquarters on Elgin Street.

"A threat of the physical building at 474 Elgin … has resulted in co-operation with American authorities and ultimately ended with the arrest of the person who initiated those threats from Putnam County, Ohio," said Bell.

Meanwhile, Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly told councillors that the police force has received an increasing number of swatting attempts, tying up already-stretched resources.

"We have received people phoning in false messages, swatting messages to our police operations centre for active explosives, ID events, gun events, that are drawing our resources away," said Sloly.

Brubaker said the Ohio-based sheriff's office contacted Ottawa police to let them know the threat was actually directed at them. He further said he was writing up a report Tuesday morning to submit to a prosecutor to consider charges related to the alleged swatting.

"A 20-year-old dumb attack," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.

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