A professional Call of Duty gamer and his family got a whiff of some real first-person shooters this week when a swarm of heavily armed officers descended on their home in Lake Stevens, Washington.
Curtis Henke, 20, became the target of a “swatting” hoax on Monday after a caller— using Skype and pretending to be Henke—informed authorities that he shot his dad in the head, stuffed a grenade in his mother’s mouth and was ready to start mowing down cops, according to police.
Authorities now suspect that a vengeful gamer may have hatched the sick stunt to distract Henke, who is a finalist in a contest to join the FaZe Clan, an elite group of Call of Duty players that has more than 2.5 million followers worldwide. The prank comes less than two months after another disgruntled Call of Duty rival sent helicopters and an army of cops to the home of a Long Island, New York, teen who bested him.
“The suspect tried to bait the police into storming Curtis’ house,” Lake Stevens Police Department Commander Dennis Taylor tells Vocativ. “It was completely over the top.”
Still, the cops were leaving nothing to chance. Six officers rushed to Henke’s Lake Drive home around 8:30 p.m. and quickly surrounded the house. Using a megaphone, they demanded that anyone inside the home must come out. Henke had been inside playing Call of Duty. The young man’s father, Warren Henke, got spooked by all of the commotion outside.
“I ran out the door and I looked up and down the street, and I just saw cop cars all over the place and officers everywhere,” Warren Henke told the Everett Herald. “I ran back in the house. I didn’t realize they were yelling at me.”
During the confusion, the prank caller continued to contact dispatchers and feed them bogus claims, saying that he had now shot the neighbor’s dog and was preparing to torch his house to the ground, Taylor says. Officers eventually entered the family’s home where it became clear that the whole brouhaha was nothing more than a hoax at the Henkes’ expense. Because Curtis Henke had been live-streaming his game play, many of his followers witnessed much of the confrontation, KOMO News reported.
“It is terrifying to think about how a little thing could have turned tonight into a horrible nightmare,” writes Warren Henke in a blog post. “So many bad things could have happened.” Curtis and Warren Henke did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Vocativ.
The incident closely mirrors the Long Island hoax in April, which was apparently triggered by a sore loser walloped in another Call of Duty battle. Helicopters and more than 60 armed officers surrounded the Long Beach home of Rafael Castillo after an opponent allegedly swatted the 17-year-old.
“I just killed my mother and I might shoot more people,” the caller reportedly said. A tense two-hour standoff followed because an oblivious Castillo was wearing headphones and still playing the game when the cops showed up, according to reports. That culprit has yet to be captured.