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Internet prank results in innocent man’s death

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There is a new culture that has sprung up in the decades since the Internet became a part of nearly everyone’s lives. Social media, news article comment sections and online gaming forums have lent a sense of anonymity to most of the people who interact in these areas. For many residents of Nebraska and elsewhere, the ability to comment and interact with strangers without disclosing one’s identity may also create a false sense of security. Some may reason that they can say what they want, while others may take things further and commit an online crime without fearing reprisal.

Swatting is one such crime. With this online prank, someone calls authorities to another person’s house by making a false charge that a crime has been committed or is in progress. The “suspect” is usually innocent of the accusations, yet becomes the target of a team of law enforcement or SWAT members. A swatting prank gone wrong can result in an innocent person’s arrest or worse.

The worst outcome recently occurred, after a man from Los Angeles, California, made a false report to authorities in Wichita, Kansas. He stated that the target of the prank had killed his own father and was holding other family members hostage. When the man answered his door to officers, he was fatally shot after police mistakenly thought he was reaching for a weapon.

The Los Angeles man is currently being held without bail, awaiting transport to Wichita. He is facing a felony false alarm charge. People should take into consideration the possible consequences to an illegal online prank to avoid criminal charges and possibly getting someone else hurt.

Source: CNN, "Suspect faces felony charge of fatally 'swatting' man 1,400 miles away," Eliot C. McLaughlin, Jan. 4, 2018

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