A Georgetown man has been indicted after officials say he made crank calls to police claiming a shooting or other emergency was going to happen.
Rodney Phipps, 29, placed phone calls from August 2015 to August 2017 to harass people in a practice known as swatting – a name originating from an armed police response team known as a SWAT team, said David C. Weiss, U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware.
Weiss said Phipps made hoax emergency calls from Delaware to police departments and emergency dispatchers in New Jersey, Louisiana, Kentucky, Florida and Georgia. Calls included false reports of murder, shootings, arson and that a hostage situation had taken place, Weiss said.
Many calls also contained explicit threats that the caller would shoot with a firearm any law enforcement personnel who responded to the emergency call, Weiss said. In several instances, he said, law enforcement responded to a victim’s residence.
Phipps was charged with five counts of making interstate threats and one count of making a false threat involving explosives. The interstate threat charges carry a five-year maximum term of imprisonment; the false threat involving explosives charge carries a 10-year maximum term of imprisonment.
“Swatting phone calls have the potential to put the lives of law enforcement officers, the intended victim, and innocent bystanders at risk. Responding to such calls also misdirects resources from local law enforcement and emergency service agencies that could have been used for legitimate emergencies. My office will prosecute those who engage in swatting activity to the fullest extent allowed by law,” said Weiss.
During the investigation, Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone, FBI Baltimore Field Office said the FBI worked with the Delaware State Police, Troop 4, the Georgetown Delaware Police Department, and the Delaware United States Attorney’s Office.
“As alleged, Mr. Phipps orchestrated an extensive, multi-faceted swatting campaign that caused a significant amount of angst, alarm, and unnecessary expenditure of limited law enforcement resources,” she said.