After the unexpected and brief Christmas Day drama, Republican Representative Brandon Williams of New York gave small bags filled with holiday shortbread cookies, chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls, and double-chocolate cookies covered in powdered sugar to the Cayuga County sheriff’s deputies before they left his house.
Williams, a first-term Republican who serves Central New York, claimed to be targeted in a “witch hunt”.
On December 25th, Williams received a phone call in the early afternoon. According to him, the call was a hoax and was made to the police in Auburn, New York in order to cause a large police response at his rural residence. The authorities, who were familiar with Williams’ address, notified him beforehand that they had received an emergency alert claiming there was an urgent situation at his home. Williams explained that the deputies quickly realized it was a hoax, but unfortunately, it had already disrupted his family’s holiday. He believes that it could have been orchestrated by those who disagree with his political views or his recent statements denouncing Hamas.
According to a CBS News investigation, three or more members of Congress reported being targeted by “swatting incidents” during the recent holiday week. Other members from various political parties have also been subjected to similar disruptive and harassing fake swatting calls in recent weeks.
Swatting is a growing, perilous, and unlawful tactic where the perpetrators aim to incite law enforcement to send out SWAT teams to the residences of prominent individuals, famous personalities, or adversaries, with the intention of harassing them.
She revealed that she was also a target of swatting on Christmas Day.
In a post on social media, Greene shared that she had been a victim of swatting for the eighth time, including on Christmas while with her family.
In August 2022, Greene publicly announced that she had been the target of a swatting prank. According to a police report, a 911 call was made to a Georgia police department claiming that a male was threatening violence against his family and himself at Greene’s residence.
Last Thursday, Republican Senator Rick Scott from Florida shared that he had received a hoax call during the holiday week. In a post on social media, Sen. Scott stated, “While having dinner with my wife last night, my home in Naples was ‘swatted’ by cowards. These individuals wrongly used our law enforcement’s time and resources in a despicable effort to frighten my family.”
A spokesperson for Naples police informed CBS News that an individual placed a misleading call to the Naples police dispatch, falsely claiming that a man had shot his wife three times with an AR-15 while she was asleep. The spokesperson stated, “Within 15 minutes, we were able to verify that the reported incident did not take place and it was in fact a case of swatting. This is currently under investigation and is being treated as an ongoing and urgent matter.”
There have been no announcements of any arrests made in these cases.
In September, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) had to leave her home due to a false emergency call made to a synagogue in California near her residence. This information was reported by several sources and confirmed by a staff member who was aware of the incident.
Local law enforcement agencies typically take charge in addressing swatting occurrences, while also receiving assistance from federal authorities.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police informed CBS News that they are aiding in the situation while also keeping a low profile to prevent copycat behavior.
A representative from the FBI informed CBS News that the organization considers all threats with great importance and will collaborate with local, state, and federal authorities to collect, exchange, and respond to threat details as they are brought to our awareness. They encourage the public to stay watchful and promptly notify law enforcement of any dubious behavior or persons.
In 2022, the FBI released a public warning regarding the occurrence of swatting, detailing its consequences and the intended victims of the act.
According to the alert, those involved in this behavior rely on technology, including methods like caller ID spoofing, social engineering, TTY, and prank calls, to make it seem like the emergency call is originating from the victim’s phone. While law enforcement has typically observed swatting incidents targeting individuals and homes, there has been a rise in swatting incidents occurring in public places like airports, schools, and businesses. Additionally, there has been a trend of targeting well-known figures known as “celebrity swatting.”
Williams believes that public officials are facing more targeting lately, especially during a time of tense relations with the police and as people try to disrupt the daily lives of elected leaders.
According to Williams, there are numerous occurrences in our society that are causing chaos in our systems. One such example is the act of swatting, where individuals make fake calls to the police, causing them to respond unnecessarily. This could also be used to target judges, state officials, and law enforcement officials.
Williams instructed his family on proper behavior as police arrived at his house on Christmas afternoon.
“I gathered my relatives in the kitchen and instructed them to relax and make sure their hands were visible,” he stated.
After the authorities entered and verified that the call was false, Williams proceeded to pack the deputies’ bags with his homemade holiday cookies.