NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) — Swatting calls to two Northeast Ohio police departments have been linked to the popular video game Fortnite.
Investigators said a teenager in Canada made hoax calls to police in Newburgh Heights and Parma, claiming he shot his mother following an argument and had poured gasoline around.
Newburgh Heights police received the swatting call around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday. The caller claimed he was at an address on Beta Avenue.
“I had an argument with my mother, and I shot her,” the caller told a dispatcher. “I just want to kill myself… I’m going to shoot anyone that comes near me. I don’t want to get arrested.”
Police responded to an apartment building with their guns drawn, knocked on doors and spoke with residents before determining the call was a hoax.
“You hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” said Newburgh Heights Lieutenant Michael Marniella.
He said the call strained resources, with officers responding from Newburgh Heights and Cuyahoga Heights and a SWAT team and fire department on standby.
“We are armed, and we have to treat this as a potential homicide, a potential hostage situation,” Marniella said.
About 15 minutes after the call to Newburgh Heights, Parma police received a similar call, placed via the Internet.
“I just got the gun from my mom’s closet and so I shot her,” the caller told a dispatcher.
Officers responded to a Chesterfield Avenue home to find three kids playing Fortnite, according to an incident report.
One of them had the name given by the hoax caller and previously lived at the Newburgh Heights address, according to the report.
Parma police used information from the victim, including a Fortnite username, to link the call to a 15-year-old in Stratford Prince Edward, Canada.
Police there seized his Xbox and said he admitted to the crime, Marniella said. He is expected to face charges in Canada.
Investigators said the suspect likely accessed the victim’s current and former address through the game, which connects players online.
In recent months, deputies in Medina County responded to swatting calls also tied to Fortnite. In August, the winner of Fortnite’s World Cup was the target of a swatting call.
Investigators are urging parents to beware and make sure children are not providing personal information, including addresses, to others through Fortnite.
“Parents need to monitor what they’re doing and what’s being said because, as law enforcement, you saw how we responded and it could have ended in a bad way,” Marniella said.