FBI Arrests Juvenile Suspected of ‘Swatting’ Synagogues, Churches in Orange County

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FBI Arrests Juvenile Suspected of ‘Swatting’ Synagogues, Churches in Orange County

Santa Ana SWAT teams and Orange County Fire Authority HAZMAT crews secure Santa Ana High School as parents and family members wait for students on lock down after bomb and weapon threats circulated at the school in Santa Ana, Calif., on March 10, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

12/14/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Authorities arrested a juvenile suspected of conducting so-called swatting attacks at Jewish synagogues in Tustin and Fullerton, California, the Federal Bureau of Investigations announced Dec. 13.
Swatting involves calling 911 and reporting a fake emergency that draws a heavy response from law enforcement and usually a SWAT team. Callers often make false reports of gun threats, bombs, or hostages, the FBI said.
The juvenile is allegedly a member of an online swatting ring that targeted numerous religious, educational, and public institutions in the United States, including synagogues and African-American churches, according to the FBI.
The FBI is prohibited from releasing the name, age, or hometown of minor defendants, FBI Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told The Epoch Times. The investigation is ongoing, she added.
“We’re continuing to investigate this case so we haven’t ruled out additional charges,” she said in an email.
The suspect is reportedly a member of a group suspected of calling in the hoaxes targeting at least 25 synagogues in 13 states between July and August.
The FBI’s special Joint Terrorism Task Force based in its West Covina, California bureau, partnered with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Tustin and Fullerton police departments, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office during the investigation.
The agencies worked to compile information that led to the identity of the person believed to have created the online server that hosted the suspected swatting network.
The server, which has since been taken offline, hosted members with extremist views, including the glorification of highly-publicized mass murderers, the FBI reported.
The juvenile suspect arrested Tuesday morning will be charged by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office on the two local swatting hoaxes, according to the FBI.
“The false swatting threats made in this case drained law enforcement resources and caused a negative financial impact on local communities,” the FBI wrote in a press release Wednesday. “Evidence has shown that making false threats can cause significant distress to victims and can cause physical injury to first responders or other victims.”
Swatting has become more common as swatters target schools, politicians, and celebrities. In response, the FBI created a national database to track the incidents, the bureau reported in 2022.
“From my perspective, this is a form of terrorism,” former FBI intelligence analyst Jennifer Doebler told NewsNation in March.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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