I was SWATted.
I described the experience here. I’ll quote a bit of it:
At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up.
When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.
They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE?
I told them: Yes, my wife and my children are in the house. They’re upstairs in their bedrooms, sleeping. Of course they’re alive.
. . . .
[P]olice rushed into my home. They woke up my wife, led her downstairs and to the front porch, frisked her, and asked her where the children were. Then police ordered her to stand on the front porch with her hands against the wall while they entered my children’s bedrooms to make sure they were alive.
The call that sent deputies to my home was a hoax.
Here’s a little bit more detail about what happened at the time and in the immediate aftermath. This is all from memory, from a year ago, so minor details could be wrong.
I had been talking with Ron Brynaert when the police arrived. I had been threatened a week earlier, but I also knew that Mike Stack had been SWATted. So when people knocked on my door and rang the doorbell, I didn’t know who it was. I looked at the oven clock that is currently to my right, and it said 12:35 a.m. I leapt from my chair and moved where I couldn’t be seen from the front door. I told Brynaert that it was 12:35 a.m and people were pounding on my door and ringing the doorbell. He seemed to ignore me and kept ranting about whatever he had been ranting about. I said: “Listen to me! It’s 12:35 in the morning and someone is knocking on the door!” I heard the people at the door yelling: “Fire!” I told Brynaert I didn’t know if it was the people who had threatened me or the police. I asked him if he thought I should keep him on the phone or hang up. I don’t remember what he said, but I decided to keep him on the phone. If something awful happened, I wanted a witness.
I ended up deciding it was the police and opened the door. Before they handcuffed me, they took the cell phone from my hand. They shouted the questions at me and some police went in the house. At that point, while we were still on my front porch, I addressed the deputy who had cuffed me. Because I knew Mike Stack had been SWATted, I said words to the effect of: “Let me guess. Someone called and said I killed my wife.” The cops looked at me like I was confessing to something. I said something like this: “Look. This is a hoax. I think I know what’s going on here. I’m a blogger. I’m also a Deputy D.A., but I don’t think this is about my job. It’s about things I wrote on my blog. This same thing happened to someone else last week, in New Jersey. Someone called and said he killed his wife, and the police showed up at his house and pointed guns at him, just like this. He and I were writing about the same story. We were both writing about Congressman Weiner, the Congressman who sent the picture of his underwear. We were both writing about that. We both got threatened by email. Check my phone. I talked to a New Jersey detective about it. His name is Jason Larson. His name and number are on my phone. I know this all sounds crazy, but that’s what’s going on.”
I continued talking to the cop about it as he walked me down the street to the patrol car. I told him that I had warned my wife that this might happen. I had also told a neighbor about it. I said: “The neighbor I told lives in that house right there. You can ask him about it. I told him this might happen. He asked if I had talked to you guys, and I didn’t, because I didn’t want to sound paranoid. I can’t believe this is actually happening to me too.”
As we walked down the street, there was a helicopter overhead, shining down a spotlight on the street. I was put in the back of the patrol car. I can’t remember if I was still cuffed any more. I think I was. It was quiet. I sat there for a few minutes.
They came back, opened up the patrol car, and uncuffed me. They had talked to my wife, who had told them the same thing. They knew now that it was a hoax. They asked me to tell them more about it. I was addressing about 4-5 sheriff’s deputies on the sidewalk by the patrol car. I told them about Anthony Weiner, and the threatening email I had gotten, and the guy in New Jersey.
They asked me if I had any idea who had done this. I told them I didn’t know for sure, but they might want to look into a guy named Neal Rauhauser. I had been talking with Brynaert about him on the phone, and had just been blogging about him when the SWATting happened.
They gave me back my phone. I think Ron Brynaert was still on the line. My memory of some details is spotty as it was a stressful situation. Either on the phone or in a DM or both, I can’t remember for sure, I told him not to tell anyone what had happened. I know at some point he said he had already told Lee Stranahan. More about that later.
I asked the deputies if we could talk in the house. We came inside and sat at the kitchen table where I am now. The house was a wreck. I told them I was in trial; we were “dark” (the trial court was not in session) the next day, but I had been very busy and had not had time to clean up. I felt embarrassed having all these deputies in my home when it was so dirty. I spent a few minutes telling them what I knew and asking what would happen next. Would a detective be assigned? Yes, he would. He should call me. They would treat it as a false report of a crime.
The deputies were sympathetic. By now they knew that both my wife and I are Deputy D.A.’s. The guy who had cuffed me and frisked me was very polite. I said I thought I recognized him, and he said the same about me. He said he had been a bailiff in Compton at times, and we agreed that was probably where I had seen him. The officers handed me a pamphlet with my “rights” as a victim and the URN (the report number for the report).
The deputies left. I asked my wife about her experience, and she told me what had happened from her perspective. I was concerned about the kids. She didn’t think the kids had been awakened more than slightly.
I called Ron Brynaert. He told me he had told Lee Stranahan what had happened. I can’t remember if he was confirming something he had said before, or telling me for the first time. I wanted to make sure that this did not become an Internet story immediately, as I worried it would impede an investigation. Although it was late, I called Lee and woke him up. I said I was sorry to wake him in the middle of the night, but this was important. I asked if he had talked to Brynaert. He said he had not. I asked if Brynaert had emailed him or gotten in touch with him in any way. He said no. I said that if he got any communications from Brynaert, to keep the subject matter to himself.
I called Brynaert back. I said Lee said he had not heard from Brynaert. Brynaert said he had sent Lee a DM. I said that Lee said he had not heard from Brynaert in any way. Brynaert said he had DM’d Lee. I said, hold on, and called Lee again.
I asked Lee to check his DM’s. He said he had no DM’s from Brynaert.
I called Brynaert back. I told him Lee said he had no DM’s. Brynaert said he had sent Lee a DM. I said, that makes no sense. I asked him to check. He says he didn’t get anything. Brynaert repeated that he had sent Lee a DM. Lee should have gotten it. I said this was really weird.
Christi said she was going back to bed. I said that I was worried I was not the only SWATting victim that night. On June 25, 2011, Alicia Pain had exchanged numerous emails with me, giving me some idiotic story about having material on Anthony Weiner. At one point she had asked me questions about where I lived, and said: “Anyway if I wanted to send you the material we talked about, where would I send it?” She included four street addresses (no city names, just number and street), one of which was mine. Of course I didn’t tell her anything about where I lived.
I remembered that Stack had told me the police had been given the wrong address by the guy who SWATted him. New Jersey police had gone to the wrong address, he had told me, and pulled an older couple out of a house where Stack used to live.
I thought: I wonder if they are making hoax calls about all four of those addresses they had for me.
By now it had to be between 1:30 and 2 a.m., but I felt an obligation to follow up on the other addresses. I called the dispatcher at the Lomita Sheriff’s station. I told him that he probably was aware that there had just been a hoax call of a shooting at my address. I explained that I was worried that similar events might be occurring at three other addresses in Southern California. I gave him the addresses and asked if he would be willing to call the other police departments to warn them. He was very friendly and said he would.
As I said, Alicia Pain had given only street names and numbers for the four addresses. I Googled all four of them and found they all belonged to various people named Patrick Frey in Southern California. I determined the city for each of them. I can’t remember whether I did that before I called the Lomita dispatcher or after.
I do know that I started to worry that the Lomita dispatcher was going to be too busy to contact the other police departments, so I started doing it myself. I called all three of the other departments. Two of them had already received calls from the dispatcher at the Sheriff’s station in Lomita, and knew what I was talking about. They said no hoax calls had occurred in their cities that night. (I had never even heard the term SWATting and did not use it with these police departments.)
The third police station had not yet heard from my Lomita dispatcher. It was an awkward conversation, occurring at probably 2:30 or 3 in the morning, that started out something like this: “OK, this is going to sound really weird, but there’s a reason I’m calling you . . .” However bizarre the situation I described sounded, I know I sounded rational and level-headed, and after a couple of minutes they understood what I was saying and took down the information.
I tried going to bed but had a hard time sleeping.
Early in the morning Lee called and asked what was going on. I really didn’t want the word to get out, but I realized that he was a potential victim, so I told him. After I woke up, I called Ace of Spades, who had also been threatened by Alicia Pain by email, and told him what had happened to me.
Ace wanted me to write about it right away. I said I didn’t want to jeopardize law enforcement investigations. He said I would be “scooped” if I didn’t break the story on my blog. Which is pretty funny if you think about it, since Big Media never reported any of this until I blogged about it on May 25, 2012.
That morning I got in touch with a friend who I knew had contacts in the FBI. I asked him to put me in touch with them. One of his friends works in Long Beach, and I talked to that agent, who invited me down to the Long Beach office to make a report. He worked in a violent crimes unit, but said he would take an initial report and pass it along to the cyber crimes people.
Later that day I met with him and gave him my story.
On July 1, 2011, Ron Brynaert sent me 7 emails. Not one referred to the SWATting that had occurred the night before. All were bizarre, impossible to understand emails about Neal Rauhauser, and sock puppets he had spoken to, and Anthony Weiner, and starchild111, and Jennifer George, and Jennifer George’s film professor. One said:
[T]he entire M.O. of these sick fucks every one of them is to DIVERT!!!!!! So they pretend to go after lee stranahan…..when that’s not their real target.
It’s you. They want to damage your career…
so with that nightmare scenario…i would guess that neal and his crew are writing everyone at your work….telling them what’s with this crazy guy throwing fake docs on the site…i can prove they’re fake….
anyway…im imagining your offices aint gonna fall for that deception….so hopefully if they do that we just get more evidence….anyone sending letters to complain you is almost definnitely a neal r dude or been duped by him….
Months later, Ron Brynaert contacted my workplace to complain about me, to damage my career. But that’s getting ahead of the story . . .