PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An investigation is underway after a prank call prompted a massive police response in Providence Wednesday night.
More than two dozen cruisers rushed to Rowley Avenue after receiving a report that someone had shot and killed both of his parents with his dad’s firearm, according to Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements.
The caller claimed the suspect was threatening to shoot himself as well, and any officers that entered the home.
Rowley Street was blocked off for more than an hour as officers surrounded the home and evacuated neighbors out of an abundance of caution.
“It takes some time to work your way through this type of call,” Clements said.
Investigators determined the report was a hoax after officers confirmed no one was inside the house in question.
Clements described the false report as frustrating.
“It’s a game that nobody thinks is funny,” Clements said. “It’s a drain on our resources.”
The police chief said this is a prime example of swatting, which is when someone falsely reports a violent emergency situation to elicit a massive police response.
Investigators have identified the person believed to be responsible for the prank call, and Clements confirmed the suspect knows the family who lives in the home officers responded to.
In Rhode Island, swatting suspects are typically charged with filing a false report, which is a misdemeanor. If convicted, a person could spend up to a year in prison or pay a $500 fine.
But Clements believes those penalties should be stiffer.
“The penalty should absolutely be more severe,” the police chief said. “To prevent this from going on … you need to start hitting people where they have to pay for the [wasted] resources.”
Clements said the department plans on lobbying for additional state and federal charges to be filed against the suspect, as well as restitution.
The incident remains under investigation at this time, and the person of interest has not yet been charged.