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Police: Emergency call that drew officers to St. Helena home was “swatting” hoax

Police: Emergency call that drew officers to St. Helena home was “swatting” hoax

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A phone call Saturday night reporting a homicide drew law enforcement officers to a St. Helena home, but turned out to be a hoax, police reported.

St. Helena Police’s dispatch center received a call at 7:43 p.m. from a man who claimed he had just killed his wife, poured gasoline over his house and locked himself in the bathroom with his children inside the home, according to Chief Chris Hartley.

Officers began arriving at a home on Madrona Avenue within two minutes, and St. Helena Police requested aid from the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and a SWAT team, Hartley said. The Calistoga and Napa police departments also responded.

Police saw a man and woman in the kitchen of the home, and used a public-address system to call them outside, according to Hartley. When officers entered the home, they determined the call to dispatchers had been a “swatting” incident, a false emergency call intended to provoke a police response, Hartley said.

Law enforcement officers left the scene about an hour after the initial call.

If found, the caller could face a charge of filing a false police report, according to Hartley, who said the phone number under investigation is not a local number. He said the caller sounded like an adult male.

“This is a heinous prank,” Hartley said, noting that a Los Angeles man was sentenced to 20 years in prison last year for initiating a swatting incident that resulted in a man being killed by law enforcement.

Hartley said that while it was ultimately a waste of resources, it was also “a great test of how well-prepared we are” for a real incident.

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You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or hyune@napanews.com

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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