Law/Justice

Police Send SWAT Team, Break Into Wrong House (With TV Film Crew) In Response To Internet Troll

techdirt.com
Mike Masnick

We’ve heard of police very frequently overreacting to things and sending in SWAT teams when they aren’t necessary. We’ve also heard of them sending SWAT teams to the wrong place. But this latest story, found via Radley Balko (who tracks these things like no other) may be the most insane yet. It involves police sending a SWAT team and breaking into the wrong house (whose front door was open) in response to some internet trolls. I’m not kidding.

The issue was that on a Topix community forum for Evansville, Indiana, someone claimed that a list of police staff had been “leaked.” Some trolls in the comments spoke out against the police — and one certainly went too far, suggesting that a certain officer’s house was going to be shot up. Rather than investigating the issue, the police got some info on where the comment came from (or, rather, where they thought the comment came from) and sent the SWAT team and a TV news crew to the home of Ira and Louise Milan — whose front door was open. Now, they could have rang the doorbell and spoken to them. But, instead, they broke down the screen door, broke the front window, and tossed a flashbang into the living room.

And… all for naught. While they seized a bunch of computer equipment, it turns out that no one in the house had anything to do with anything. Something they could have ascertained by, you know, talking to people in the house. The police are defending their massive overreaction because…. the internet!!!!

“This is a little more difficult that a traditional crime scene, because we’re dealing with the Internet. They definitely weren’t expecting (a SWAT team at the door). The reason we did that is the threats were specific enough, and the potential for danger was there.

“This is a big deal to us,” Cullum said. “This may be just somebody who was online just talking stupid. What I would suggest to anybody who visits websites like that is that their comments can be taken literally.”

Yes, so because the police might overreact, you should watch what you say online. And also always be ready for a SWAT team to show up, in case a stranger you know nothing about says something bad online. After all, it’s “the internet.”

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