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A Facebook executive’s home was targeted in a call made to Palo Alto police by a man claiming he shot his wife and tied up their children, setting off a huge response by law enforcement officers who later realized it was a hoax.
Police dispatchers received the call at 9:16 p.m. Tuesday by a caller who impersonated a resident of the 900 block of Emerson Street, saying he had just shot his wife inside the home and had his children tied up. He also claimed to have pipe bombs and threatened to hurt any police officers who responded.
The call triggered a “significant response” that included crisis negotiators and many officers who surrounded the home. They used a public address system to contact the residents inside. A man who emerged from the home had no idea what was going on, police said.
The house was searched and cleared.
“Hoax threats such as this are not only criminal in nature, but they also create a great deal of stress and anxiety for neighbors,” police said in a statement.
On Thursday, a Facebook spokesman confirmed the home belonged to one of the company’s employee.
“We thank the city of Palo Alto for their swift and thoughtful response,” said Anthony Harrison, a Facebook spokesman. “They quickly identified this as a prank, and we are glad that our colleague and his family are safe.”
Similar hoax emergency calls have triggered police responses — sometimes with deadly consequences for the unsuspecting residents of the targeted home. The practice is known as “swatting.”
Last year, Tyler Barriss, a California man, pled guilty to placing a call from Los Angeles to Wichita police claiming a shooting and kidnapping had occurred at a specific Wichita address. When Wichita police went to the given address, the man who opened the door, Andrew Finch, was fatally shot.
Palo Alto police said their hoax caller could face multiple criminal charges.
Anyone with information is asked to call 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to email@example.com or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Gwendolyn Wu contributed to this report.
Suzanne Espinosa Solis is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Palo-Alto-police-swarm-house-after-emergency-call-13522551.php.