How a Family Almost Got Shot and Gassed: a Swatting Story

RandV80

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Baresark said:
I think it's extremely short sighted to blame this on the police. They get a call that they MUST take as serious. The calls almost universally include confession of murder of women and/or children or holding hostages or both. Any police agency on the planet would treat it just as serious, even if there were no equivalent to SWAT teams in other countries. I'm not saying the police in the US are not over militarized, but it doesn't make sense to blame them. This happens because some piece of crap thinks it's funny to almost get people killed. That is the only reason this happens. Not because police are militarized, that is a whole other issue that you can't possibly blame this on.
In regards to blaming the police for being overzealous I think part of the problem is we don't have nearly enough info to evaluate it on. What kind of calls do these scumbags make to get a SWAT team response? Is it a quick call to a 911 responder that then gets passed up the ladder? What sort of response time does the SWAT team have, is there anytime to do a cautionary background check before they hit the pavement? How often are these false alarms sounded? Have they been through 9 dangerous crackhouses this month then the 10th time happens to be the innocent Jones family?

We tend to assume that they should be able to look up an address and say 'oh the Jones live there, family of 4 with dog in safe suburban area no criminal record, likely false alarm so send officer first'. But realistically we don't know how it all plays out. And considering that these scumbags use this knowledge to effectively make these calls, it probably shouldn't be laid out somewhere for everyone to see. At face value the best I could think of is that if it's not a crime ridden area then while swat is suiting up they could maybe send a regular patrol car on a simple drive by? No sirens, no knocking at the door, just drive by the house and report if anything seems amiss.

And on a completely different topic, another thing you here of often happening in these cases is the family dog getting shot. Humans get the warning but it seems like if a SWAT team see's a dog they shoot first. A number of years ago at a film fest I watched a French film which involved a scene where a Paris SWAT team busted assaulted the leads apartment. He was gone, but his big fluffy dog was home. In this case however the tactics used were that this SWAT team had intel and was expecting a big dog. After breaching the door they had a specific guy wearing one of those dog training arms go right for the dog and when it bit down they shot it with a tranquilizer. Seemed like standard procedure while the guys with the real guns did the usual sweep.

So is it not possible for the US SWAT teams to handle dogs a bit more humanely?
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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direkiller said:
There are ways to spoof numbers(a few of the cases have calls made from local gas stations when no one made a call from that location)
a few websites sites will do it for a small charge.
Mind you this is a crime that carries a hefty fine in the US, but it makes this rather hard to track after a certain point.
I believe that once they realise that they will have to crack down on this kind of crime (and they will), they will punish them with more than a fine.

Vivi22 said:
You don't seem to realize that getting your hands on a cheap burner or pre-paid cell phone is child's play and can't be tracked easily, if at all.
SexyGarfield said:
I always imagined that the ones that get away with it use burner cellphones in outdoor areas unlikely to have cameras and then take out the battery where the call was made and destroy/dispose of the phone elsewhere. What's $15 against your freedom?
The idea of untraceable burner phones are based off some very poorly written Hollywood ideas.
 

SexyGarfield

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008Zulu said:
Pray tell how does one trace a freshly activated cellphone that was bought with cash? I am not saying you're wrong I just don't see a way. I have bought one and used it for a while when I lost my phone and I never had to use any identifying information.
 

direkiller

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008Zulu said:
direkiller said:
There are ways to spoof numbers(a few of the cases have calls made from local gas stations when no one made a call from that location)
a few websites sites will do it for a small charge.
Mind you this is a crime that carries a hefty fine in the US, but it makes this rather hard to track after a certain point.
I believe that once they realise that they will have to crack down on this kind of crime (and they will), they will punish them with more than a fine.
They have broght the hammer down on people they caught alredy. A false report can (and in this case dose) bring a felony.


The spoof number law was designed for telemarketers, which is why it is a fine rather then jail time.


Still if done right it makes it rather hard for anything short of a federal agency to track, state agency are rarely equipped to deal with it.

There is also a case involving a Canadian citizen calling aross the border. Who was caught more because he was an idiot on twitter rather then phone calls made, but still cases involving another country can be problematic.
http://krebsonsecurity.com/2014/05/teen-arrested-for-30-swattings-bomb-threats/
 

Jake Martinez

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BinDipper said:
Question, is "swatting" a thing in anywhere but the U.S.?
I've not heard of any cases outside the U.S.
Is this another symptom of the police-as-military-just-without-the-training culture in the U.S.?
You're not wrong.

This wouldn't even be a "thing" if the police weren't armed to the teeth like a Para-Military force and employing similar tactics in civilian policing operations.

I hate to say it, but after recent events, Maxcuster's probably lucky he's not black or we'd be reading instead about how a family was killed by an internet prankster's "Swatting" (while similarly painting the overarmed and overaggressive police as "just doing their jobs").
 

MirenBainesUSMC

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This has happened many times, unfortunately it derives from people whom wish to target someone they harshly disagreed with --- particularly in politics.
 

Baresark

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RandV80 said:
Baresark said:
In regards to blaming the police for being overzealous I think part of the problem is we don't have nearly enough info to evaluate it on. What kind of calls do these scumbags make to get a SWAT team response? Is it a quick call to a 911 responder that then gets passed up the ladder? What sort of response time does the SWAT team have, is there anytime to do a cautionary background check before they hit the pavement? How often are these false alarms sounded? Have they been through 9 dangerous crackhouses this month then the 10th time happens to be the innocent Jones family?

We tend to assume that they should be able to look up an address and say 'oh the Jones live there, family of 4 with dog in safe suburban area no criminal record, likely false alarm so send officer first'. But realistically we don't know how it all plays out. And considering that these scumbags use this knowledge to effectively make these calls, it probably shouldn't be laid out somewhere for everyone to see. At face value the best I could think of is that if it's not a crime ridden area then while swat is suiting up they could maybe send a regular patrol car on a simple drive by? No sirens, no knocking at the door, just drive by the house and report if anything seems amiss.

And on a completely different topic, another thing you here of often happening in these cases is the family dog getting shot. Humans get the warning but it seems like if a SWAT team see's a dog they shoot first. A number of years ago at a film fest I watched a French film which involved a scene where a Paris SWAT team busted assaulted the leads apartment. He was gone, but his big fluffy dog was home. In this case however the tactics used were that this SWAT team had intel and was expecting a big dog. After breaching the door they had a specific guy wearing one of those dog training arms go right for the dog and when it bit down they shot it with a tranquilizer. Seemed like standard procedure while the guys with the real guns did the usual sweep.

So is it not possible for the US SWAT teams to handle dogs a bit more humanely?
From all the one's I have read and heard about (which is admittedly not the majority, only a few), they have made serious threats. Saying they have shot and killed some, saying they are holding hostages and intend to shoot them. In those situations, they are absolutely making the right situation to deploy like they do. The one's I have heard of, they aren't being reported as domestic abuse or a rock through a window(ie. send out a squad car to investigate). I'm assuming that since SWAT deployment is costly and can't just be done as a matter of routine, the situations they are responding too typically are the type that call for such measures.

I have to tell you, the family dog getting shot makes me want to see them all die. They do it because they are assuring their safety, but they are wearing body armor and have many non-lethal weapons at their disposal, which they don't even try to use in those situations. On a rational level, I get it. But the double standard of police dogs vs family pet dogs makes me insane. If you kill a police dog, you get charged with murder of a police officer. If they shoot your dog, they can just laugh about it with their buddies with no repercussions. I say that for every innocent dog they kill, they should have to watch a police dog get murdered in turn. That is clearly my emotions talking. But it will always feel wrong that the natural course of action is to kill the family dog.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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SexyGarfield said:
Pray tell how does one trace a freshly activated cellphone that was bought with cash? I am not saying you're wrong I just don't see a way. I have bought one and used it for a while when I lost my phone and I never had to use any identifying information.
Well, when you pay for a phone, even with cash, you are required to provide a valid ID; driver's license, etc before they sell it to you.
 

briankoontz

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RedDeadFred said:
castlewise said:
I don't want to go on too much of a rant, but the Escapist and other videogame news outlets aren't helping by reporting these things. The idiots who do these hoaxes want to be noticed. Letting something they did run amok all over the news sites just makes them feel more powerful.
I agree completely. This is the very definition of feeding the trolls. The more attention this gets, the more popular it's going to become and that's a very scary thing.
That's ridiculous. Murders get a lot of attention but there's no proof that that causes more murders.

Calling this behavior "trolling" is amazing. Invading someone's privacy, wasting taxpayer money, and possibly getting people injured or killed isn't trolling - it's an attack on the person and a criminal offense.

The other problem is the paranoid, overly armed, and bullying American police force.

This isn't a cry for attention, but a cry for power. There are lots and lots of young people out there, many of them gamers, who feel powerless in their lives and who live in a dying world. SWATing is a way for them to exercise power in a life where they either have none or seem to have none.

As usual the wise sages of the Escapist forums call for long jail sentences for people who already don't have very good lives. The solution of empowering people so that they can impact the world in positive ways escapes our wisest of sages.

That's the thing about humans which is almost never talked about in any circles. If humans aren't taught how to do good things, how to exercise power in a positive way, the outcome tends to be the exercise of power in a negative way. Then instead of punishing the people who failed to guide the young person the young person himself is punished. It's the American Way. That is to say, it doesn't fucking work.
 

Elvis Starburst

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Do I just need to give up on you guys...? The majority is not like this, sure, but the minority is just a train wreck. Do I need to throw my hands up and simply live in ignorance so I don't have to watch as you fucking twats SWAT more and more innocent people? Just wait, someone is gonna fucking DIE. THEN WHAT?! Where the hell do we go from there? Nowhere. Once someone dies it's just... done. An irrevocable stain in the name of gaming. Just cause some idiot thought this would be funny. I'm disgusted, and absolutely sick of this crap
 

Strazdas

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008Zulu said:
So do these trolls really think they are getting away with it? 911/emergency service numbers in general, automatically logs your number and address you are calling from (the police system bypasses all those blocked number filters) before the first word is uttered. Can't call 911 over Skype, so you can't hide that way either. Do they not think these things through? Need tougher penalties I say.
the dumb kids trolling in games wil lget caught easily, yes. thing is, its definatelly possible to hide your number and become untracalble. not that people smart enough to do that would bother with "Swatting" though.

BinDipper said:
Question, is "swatting" a thing in anywhere but the U.S.?
I've not heard of any cases outside the U.S.
Is this another symptom of the police-as-military-just-without-the-training culture in the U.S.?
It is a thing in US only because US police has different protocols of action when such calls happen. altrough i believe i heard one story of swatting in UK as well when somone reported armed murderer in the house.



Karloff said:
BinDipper said:
Question, is "swatting" a thing in anywhere but the U.S.?
I've not heard of any cases outside the U.S.
Is this another symptom of the police-as-military-just-without-the-training culture in the U.S.?
It may have more to do with state borders. If I prank call from Alabama, but the target is in Arkansas, the Arkansas state law can't come after me. The Federals can, but then it boils down to whether or not the FBI's going to spend time and resources investigating what amounts to a wasting police time offense. Of course, if ever someone actually gets shot then things will change dramatically.

Whereas if I were doing this in the UK, and prank called Nottingham while living in Leeds, there are no borders to consider, and the cops will probably be more than happy to turn up at my door.
it is worth noting that it is possible that the perpetrator is calling from another country entirely, as the costs of international calls get lower this is more and more a possibility.
 

Karloff

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geizr said:
I agree there should be more accountability for the pranksters, but none of that really answers my questions though, it just kind of brushes them off with "it has to be this way." I don't think it does.
And reporting bias is one thing but not a single incidence of this happening outside the U.S. being reported is another. I can't believe that in my country (the U.K.) sensationalist papers like The Daily Mail wouldn't be all over this if it were happening.

Zetatrain said:
Though another thing that should probably be considered is that since other countries have tighter restrictions on firearms they have far less instances were a SWAT team is required and therefore less chances to screw up. There is also the whole "War on drugs" that the US has going which seems to be the cause of a lot of SWAT deployments such as the example you posted.
Interesting that you mention the war on drugs. I was thinking to myself yesterday "I sound like a character out of The Wire, lamenting the lack of police work and the emphasis on getting street dealers at any cost."

EternallyBored said:
It has happened outside the U.S., as far as I know it has happened in France, Germany, and Canada,
Can you give me links to reference this? I haven't been able to find anything myself.

elvor0 said:
In the UK, we'd send in the SAS for threats our Armed Response Squads can't or couldn't handle(generally ARS are armed with the same as US police officer, while standard UK police have...a baton, but only because gun crime is so low), which is rare, because we have less gun crime, it's no different from sending in SWAT for a situation that requires more than just a bog standard copper, which is appropriate because of the higher gun crime rate in the US.
The thing is, I live in the U.K. and I reckon I could call the police and say "I just shot and killed someone and I'll shoot and kill anyone who comes in my house" without the ARS showing up as a first response. Because that's all it took to get SWAT to be sent as first response in this case.
Am I wrong to think that?

Baresark said:
I think it's extremely short sighted to blame this on the police. They get a call that they MUST take as serious. The calls almost universally include confession of murder of women and/or children or holding hostages or both. Any police agency on the planet would treat it just as serious, even if there were no equivalent to SWAT teams in other countries. I'm not saying the police in the US are not over militarized, but it doesn't make sense to blame them. This happens because some piece of crap thinks it's funny to almost get people killed. That is the only reason this happens. Not because police are militarized, that is a whole other issue that you can't possibly blame this on.
There's a big difference between treating a single report seriously and taking a single report as gospel. I'm not blaming the SWAT teams per-se, obviously the ultimate responsibility lays at the feet of the prankster. But for the SWAT teams to put themselves in a position where they are so easily pranked just seems silly to me.
Like if I wanted to rob a bank, I could just call in a fake murder/hostage confession and boom, I've got a couple of hours to rob said bank without having to worry about SWAT teams showing up.

Jake Martinez said:
I hate to say it, but after recent events, Maxcuster's probably lucky he's not black or we'd be reading instead about how a family was killed by an internet prankster's "Swatting" (while similarly painting the overarmed and overaggressive police as "just doing their jobs").
It wouldn't be as bad if the county then took responsibility for their lack of investigation. But they don't seem to. In the case I mentioned they refused to pay for the child's medical bills, I've also read other cases where the wrong address has been raided, family dogs have been killed (because of course a dog is going to freak out in that situation) and no compensation has been provided.

Strazdas said:
It is a thing in US only because US police has different protocols of action when such calls happen. altrough i believe i heard one story of swatting in UK as well when somone reported armed murderer in the house.
Do you have a link to that? Because I can't find anything.
 

Flames66

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008Zulu said:
The idea of untraceable burner phones are based off some very poorly written Hollywood ideas.
Nobody is saying they are untraceable. What they are saying is you get a cheap, disposable phone and SIM card and make the call from somewhere other than where you live. Once you are done dispose of the phone and SIM and you're done. How do you intend to trace that call?

SexyGarfield said:
Qizx said:
Phil the Nervous said:
The wikipedia article on swatting mentions a Twitch streamer getting arrested for possession, apparently the swat team searched his house looking for a bomb and found a bag of marijuana.

It's only tangentially related, but it seems worrisome that this kind of situation can override the need for a warrant.
Now I'm no lawyer at all but does that work? If they DO find illegal materials I thought they can't press charges if it's an unjustified entry? Either way that's fucking absurd.

EDIT: I'm going off a story I only vaguely remember from years ago where I think a guy got off for illegally having a gun because they ruled the police didn't have a right to search him in the first place.
From what I understand, as long as the officer has a legal right to be in a place where he can detect contraband it is all good to press charges. Responding to a possible threat gives them the right as terrible as that is.

The Plain Sight Doctrine said:
If a law enforcement officer has a legal right to be in plain sight or can smell parts of illegal contraband, they have the right to seize the contraband or evidence and arrest individuals. However, if an officer finds the items illegally, contraband may be seized, but cannot be used as evidence in criminal courts.

http://www.lawfirms.com/resources/criminal-defense/defendants-rights/search-seizure.htm
That leaves the whole system open to abuse and is a hole that needs to be plugged.

Solvemedia: Big Brother

o.0
 

Strazdas

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BinDipper said:
Strazdas said:
It is a thing in US only because US police has different protocols of action when such calls happen. altrough i believe i heard one story of swatting in UK as well when somone reported armed murderer in the house.
Do you have a link to that? Because I can't find anything.
Sadly no, i dont stockpile links of every news story i read and im sure your as good at google as i am.
 

elvor0

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BinDipper said:
elvor0 said:
In the UK, we'd send in the SAS for threats our Armed Response Squads can't or couldn't handle(generally ARS are armed with the same as US police officer, while standard UK police have...a baton, but only because gun crime is so low), which is rare, because we have less gun crime, it's no different from sending in SWAT for a situation that requires more than just a bog standard copper, which is appropriate because of the higher gun crime rate in the US.
The thing is, I live in the U.K. and I reckon I could call the police and say "I just shot and killed someone and I'll shoot and kill anyone who comes in my house" without the ARS showing up as a first response. Because that's all it took to get SWAT to be sent as first response in this case.
Am I wrong to think that?
I dunno, I think the ARS would show up in that situation. At least I'd hope so, for the officers own good, as well as the public. I mean, you've got a gun, you've just shot someone and you're threatening to kill anyone that comes near you. The approrpriate response of force, are police with guns. Granted, they may try and talk you down first, as you're not a further "threat" as long as you're in your house. But that's different to a potentional hostage situation.

We don't know what the prankster told the police, presumebly that there were hostages and it was a highly dangerous situation. I know the US gets a bit trigger happy, but it needs to be a situation that demands SWAT in order for them to show up, I presume if it was a less risky situation, they'd just send the standard police. And frankly, a high-risk, high threat hostage situation, is one where I'd expect the SWAT teams to show up.
 

Karloff

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Strazdas said:
Sadly no, i dont stockpile links of every news story i read and im sure your as good at google as i am.
If I could find it on google I wouldn't be asking you.
Any identifying details you remember from said story?
 

Karloff

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elvor0 said:
I dunno, I think the ARS would show up in that situation. At least I'd hope so, for the officers own good, as well as the public. I mean, you've got a gun, you've just shot someone and you're threatening to kill anyone that comes near you. The approrpriate response of force, are police with guns. Granted, they may try and talk you down first, as you're not a further "threat" as long as you're in your house. But that's different to a potentional hostage situation.
But that's the whole point, I don't have a gun, I haven't just shot someone, and it's only a single, isolated, unconfirmed (and ultimately false) report.
I don't think they would send the ARS in that situation.

elvor0 said:
We don't know what the prankster told the police, presumebly that there were hostages and it was a highly dangerous situation.
We do know what the prankster told police, it's mentioned in the video. The prankster told the police that he was the guy, he had shot and killed his wife and would shoot any police that tried to enter his property.
 

elvor0

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BinDipper said:
elvor0 said:
I dunno, I think the ARS would show up in that situation. At least I'd hope so, for the officers own good, as well as the public. I mean, you've got a gun, you've just shot someone and you're threatening to kill anyone that comes near you. The approrpriate response of force, are police with guns. Granted, they may try and talk you down first, as you're not a further "threat" as long as you're in your house. But that's different to a potentional hostage situation.
But that's the whole point, I don't have a gun, I haven't just shot someone, and it's only a single, isolated, unconfirmed (and ultimately false) report.
I don't think they would send the ARS in that situation.
Yes, but the point is /they/ don't know that you haven't actually just shot someone. What if you really are a nutter? They've got to send in /someone/, even if it just one phonecall, I'm sure there's plenty of cases where it's been just one phonecall, they can't risk it being a real scenario, in case someone else gets shot. The public would be up in arms if there was a genuine case and the police failed to respond.

If the report is that you're armed, it makes sense that they'd send in someone who was armed to deal with you. I'll change my stance to agree you're right, in that they would likely send in someone to talk you down from a safe distance first, but with the ARS on standby.

BinDipper said:
elvor0 said:
We don't know what the prankster told the police, presumebly that there were hostages and it was a highly dangerous situation.
We do know what the prankster told police, it's mentioned in the video. The prankster told the police that he was the guy, he had shot and killed his wife and would shoot any police that tried to enter his property.
Oh, sorry, didn't actually watch it, oops. Suppose I should've done that. Colour me corrected. But still, as far as they're concerned, nutjob who's just shot his wife. Maybe he's such a psycho that after killing his wife, he went and sat on the computer? Plus it is America, who knows how well the guy is armed? Too risky to send in a guy with a pistol and the dude turns out to be packing an assault rifle.

In response to your question asking the other dude about hoax swatters, this is what I could find, though the first one did include three phonecalls, but from the same person:

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/367621/World-dwarf-champion-made-drunken-999-call-about-woman-with-shotgun-outside-his-home

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/possible-hoax-call-led-major-6391221

http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/grassroots/derbyshire-boy-13-arrested-following-suspected-brimington-hoax-1-6715370

Now it's disputable that the second one is a hoax or just a concerned citizen, but it shows that they do respond in full force if there are firearms involved.
 

Scorched_Cascade

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SexyGarfield said:
Pray tell how does one trace a freshly activated cellphone that was bought with cash? I am not saying you're wrong I just don't see a way. I have bought one and used it for a while when I lost my phone and I never had to use any identifying information.
Flames66 said:
Nobody is saying they are untraceable. What they are saying is you get a cheap, disposable phone and SIM card and make the call from somewhere other than where you live. Once you are done dispose of the phone and SIM and you're done. How do you intend to trace that call?
This is touching on something that I'm confused by with this swatting practice.

See, the police have your location. Their system bypasses nearly all (I want to say all but apparently not) withheld number/location spoofing. Even when you use a pre-paid phone they can detect, with decent accuracy, your geographical location thanks to knowing which cellphone tower you're current nearest to. Given more time and they could probably triangulate but all they need is the one you're nearest to.

In this specific instance the caller pretended to be the guy inside the house.

Does that not set off massive red flags to the operator that the caller is saying they're the guy inside the house but the call is coming from somewhere else entirely?

Obviously this gets murkier when the caller is saying they see/saw/have seen the "suspect" but when they're pretending to be the person holed up in the house and the call is coming from outside the house....how does that work?

The only conclusion I could draw is that the caller had some way to spoof their call and make it look to the police like it was originating inside the house. As far as I know, this isn't possible. What's going on?
 

Karloff

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elvor0 said:
In response to your question asking the other dude about hoax swatters, this is what I could find, though the first one did include three phonecalls, but from the same person:

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/367621/World-dwarf-champion-made-drunken-999-call-about-woman-with-shotgun-outside-his-home

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/possible-hoax-call-led-major-6391221

http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/grassroots/derbyshire-boy-13-arrested-following-suspected-brimington-hoax-1-6715370

Now it's disputable that the second one is a hoax or just a concerned citizen, but it shows that they do respond in full force if there are firearms involved.
Interesting, thanks for the additional info.
Reading those articles I can't see any mention of them actually entering the property, perhaps the ARS makes some on-site attempts to confirm the report before breeching the property?
Would be cool if I knew someone in the ARS to ask.