crimes and misdemeanors

Call of Duty Loser Sparks Long Island Hostage Hoax

Store manager Brandon Khan displays copies of
Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While the debate over whether video games cause violent behavior rages on, gaming did prove dangerous for one Long Island teen. As Rafael Castillo, 17, played Call of Duty on Tuesday afternoon, more than 70 emergency responders swarmed his Long Beach home in response to a reported hostage situation. Someone claiming to be Castillo called the local police station via Skype and said, “I just killed my mother and I might shoot more people.” In reality, Maria Castillo was completely fine, at least until she spotted officers on her lawn with guns drawn, screaming, “Go! Go! Get out!” Her other son, 21-year-old Jose Castillo, arrived home from lunch to find helicopters circling and fire trucks outside his home. “I thought there was a fire at my house. I ran up and saw my mom running out, I didn’t know what was going on,” Jose said. “Then one of the police officers said somebody called and said that the mother and brother of somebody in this house was killed. I said ‘how is that possible if she’s right there and I’m right here?’”

For 20 minutes, police couldn’t reach Rafael Castillo by phone because he was playing his game with headphones on, but eventually his brother got through to him. After police questioned the teen, they concluded that he was the victim of an idiotic prank. Police believe that after Castillo killed another player in Call of Duty, someone traced his IP address and made the fake report to get revenge.

Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney said the practice is known as “swatting,” and it’s becoming “a national epidemic” (a handful of celebrities were victims of similar hoaxes last year). “In this … bizarre world of Swatting, you get points for the helicopter, for the police cars, for the SWAT team, for the type of entry,” said Tangney. “It’s very sophisticated. Unfortunately, it’s very dangerous.”

Tangney added that if they can locate the person who made the call, they may be charged with falsely reporting an incident and billed for the $100,000 emergency response. “I’m very angry,” he said. “It’s a tremendous waste of taxpayers’ resources.”

Call of Duty Loser Sparks L.I. Hostage Hoax