WICKLIFFE, Ohio -- In less than thirty minutes, a northeast Ohio police department responded to a high school bomb threat and a call for a shooting, with an armed suspect inside a home. Both turned out to be a hoax and were among several calls that tied up police resources.
Around 2:12 p.m. Wednesday, Wickliffe police received a troubling call, sending them to a home in the 30000 block of Robert Street.
"The call was that somebody had been shot inside the house and was bleeding and that there was still a person inside the house with a gun," said lieutenant Pat Hengst.
Officers, including some from a neighboring department, rushed to the scene.
"Fairly quickly we were able to determine that was a hoax, based on a number of factors, the phone number that called us didn't seem to match up with numbers we would expect to come from that home and some other things," Hengst said.
Then, at 2:38 p.m., police received a call that bombs were placed inside Wickliffe High School. The school was evacuated, and officers searched the building. They found nothing.
"We quickly were able to determine that the number that was showing as the calling number for that, was the same number that made the hoax at the residence," said Hengst.
Police said they believe the fake calls were someone's way of settling an online gaming dispute.
"In other words, somebody perceives a slight online and they then use technology to try to get back at the person that they feel has slighted them," he said.
The caller gave police the name of a real person -- someone who had been interacting with other video game players online.
"When somebody calls the high school and gives a name and says 'I'm the person doing this', I'm the person planting a bomb, then that person becomes a victim too," said the lieutenant.
Wickliffe police said the calls can be difficult to trace because they could come from anywhere in the world. Police said the five swatting calls they received Wednesday diverted resources from real emergencies.
"During the course of these five calls we also had an injury car accident that was legitimate and people needed help,” he said.
Lt. Hengst said this type of swatting is not limited to Wickliffe or Lake County. He said police departments are seeing it happen nearly everywhere.
Investigators said they will track down the caller, although it may take awhile. Police suggest that anyone who plays video games online, remember to interact with the person just as though you are face to face. He said that includes limiting personal information you give out.