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Fake email triggers possible swatting investigation in Putnam County

Fake email triggers possible swatting investigation in Putnam County

A fake email sent to political candidates in Putnam County sparked a possible swatting investigation. Investigators say a 15-year-old boy and his family were targeted online by someone in another state.

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The email claimed that a transgender person had shot and killed his family and planned to shoot others. The fabricated manifesto was sent to political candidates in Putnam County as well as to sheriff’s office employees, using a false name but a real address.

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“It was designed to mention certain sensitive issues and of course we are concerned, we are very mindful of any kind of hate crime. Whether it is a hate crime based on a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, that was mentioned,” said Colonel Joseph Wells of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. “It was also mentioned that there had been previous violence at the house. So that will set off alarm bells, the address is confirmed. It’s a valid address, so all the pieces were there to cause us to have a massive response for no reason.”

Palatka police and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office went to the home and found a 15-year-old boy who they learned had been having an online argument with someone from out of state. A police report said he had been online friends with a girl in Washington state and told the girl to break up with someone else. The teen has been harassed ever since.

“The young man, who lives in our jurisdiction, did nothing wrong except that he was unaware and perhaps gave out more information than he actually gave, such as his address, and that is how this incident occurred,” said Colonel Wells.

Swatting is a practice that is becoming increasingly common among law enforcement agencies, and Colonel Wells advised calling police immediately if you believe you are the victim of harassment.

“Do not pay a ransom, do not give any money, do not give them any personal information and notify law enforcement immediately,” he said.

Colonel Wells said it was important for parents to be aware of what their children were doing online.

“That is why we encourage families and parents to monitor online activity. Parents must not see this as an invasion of privacy, but as an opportunity to protect their children,” he said.

Colonel Wells said officials in Putnam County, West Virginia, received the same fake email and a statewide investigation has been launched. Investigators do not know the names of the suspects but are doing everything they can to solve the case.

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