In this file image, Wolf Blitzer speaks during a Refugees International dinner. He is the latest celebrity victim of a "swatting" hoax, in which police are sent to a celebrity's home by reporting a fake emergency. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)
Police rushed more than a dozen heavily-armed officers to the Bethesda, Md. home of CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer Saturday evening — but quickly realized the emergency message that brought them to the home was a hoax, nicknamed "swatting."
It's similar to hoaxes that have happened to Justin Bieber and Paris Hilton, and it's costing local law enforcement valuable time and resources.
"This is not funny, and it's not a joke," said Captain Paul Starks of the Montgomery County Police Department.
In this case, Montgomery County's Emergency Communications Center received a text that appeared to come from Wolf Blitzer's home. In the text, the person claimed to be Blitzer and said he had shot his wife.
More than a dozen police responded quickly in "Code 1" status, using their lights and sirens, reported News4 Washington's Jackie Bensen. Police cordoned off the home.
But a dispatch supervisor on duty was familiar with the growing phenomenon of swatting, a falsely-generated 911 call or text designed to make it look like it came from the homeowner and draw police to a celebrity's home.
That dispatcher took the initiative to call CNN directly and was informed Blitzer was out of town.
Officers on the way to the house also began to suspect something. "Can we get someone on a phone line that's in the house? This could be a hoax," authorities can be heard on 911 calls released to News4 Washington.
"There were many clues in this case that this may not be an emergency call," Starks said. "For example, why are you just texting this if this is an emergency? Why not call us immediately?"
These hoaxes waste the time of local law enforcement and draw their attention away from real disturbances.
In parts of the dispatch recording, a persistent beeping can be heard in the background — the sound of other callers having to wait while dispatchers dealt with the hoax.