A South Jersey lawmaker said he recently became the victim of a modern-age crime he's trying to fight with tougher penalties.
“Some sick, evil person had reported that there was a shooting at my house,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-District 4).
Moriarty became the victim of swatting. The NBC10 Investigators brought the issue of swatting to the Garden State lawmaker last October and now the problem has come to his front door.
Last Saturday afternoon, Moriarty was relaxing at home when he got a call from Gloucester County police dispatchers.
“I was stunned,” said Moriarty. “The dispatch guy says to me next … ‘we need you to come outside and show yourself and keep your hands where we can see them.”
He walked outside to find about one dozen police officers pointing weapons at him and his house.
“I knew right away, I said, ‘I’ve been swatted,’” said Moriarty.
NBC10 obtained the recording of police dispatch reporting what the prankster told him.
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"He just hung up on me stating that he tied his family up, his mother, his father and his 5-year-old sister," the officer says in the recording. "He stated he shot his father with a 12-gauge shotgun. He could not tell me whether his father was conscious or alert. Be advised he says he's gonna shoot any cop that arrives."
Swatting is a cruel prank where someone makes a phony 911 call that leads to a SWAT team showing up at an unsuspecting house.
“I can’t imagine what goes through the heads of people who think this is funny,” said Moriarty. “My heart was beating pretty quick, let me tell you. It was a scary moment to see what was going on outside my door.”
Moriarty said he was grateful he answered the phone since, if he didn’t, police could have possibly stormed into his home. This was one of two swatting incidents over the weekend in Washington Township.
“They’re very dangerous for the officers and the residents,” said Washington Township Police Chief Rafael Muniz. “I mean, all our officers are treating this as actual incidents.”
Moriarty believes he was targeted because of a bill he's sponsoring that increases the penalties for swatting.
“They need to go to jail, this should be a second-degree crime that would be punishable by 10 to 15 years in jail, $150,000 fine and also make that being be responsible for paying for all the SWAT team coming out to your house,” said the lawmaker.
But getting the people responsible for a swatting incident is easier said than done as swatters often hide behind online personas and phone blockers.
“Many times these numbers bounce from different IP addresses, different phone numbers so it can take some time,” said Muniz.
“Law enforcement has to find a way to find out who’s doing this and right now they don’t seem to have the technology to do the job,” said Moriarty.
Muniz said responding to fake calls means his officers could be out of position to get to real emergencies.
“At times these incidents could take -- even if they’re a prank, they’re swatting incidents -- can take up to half an hour to clear. And so we’re backlogging many calls,” said Muniz.
Despite an increased effort to stop swatting, the practice continues.
“Someone could get seriously injured or killed,” said Moriarty.
Moriarty said his bill should be heard in the next few weeks.