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Mitchell Police Chief: Hoax call believed to have originated overseas

November 7, 2018

A call that resulted in several law enforcement agencies responding to Mitchell Friday has been traced and is believed to have originated overseas.

On Friday, the Mitchell Police Department and multiple agencies responded to a residence in downtown Mitchell after the communications center received a call from a man, named George, claiming to have killed his girlfriend and having a pipe bomb that he threatened to detonate. In subsequent calls, the man claimed he had children in the home and threatened to harm them unless police came into the residence. Officers spoke to the man during the call.

However, officers remained at bay for more than two hours until police were able to make contact with residents of the home.

“We didn’t know it was a false call until contact was made with the residents of the home,” Cotant said.

Cotant said that the call occurred after someone in Mitchell was live streaming in the area and someone picked up that stream, using it to make a false call to police. Through cooperation with Internet providers, including Google, Cotant said that Mitchell officers were able to determine the source of the call came from overseas.

“My two officers, Officer Mandy Murphy and Officer Regina Preston, did an outstanding job on this,” he said. “They followed the call, they did a lot of work.”

The two officers were also the first on scene, shutting down the down area and cordoning it quickly, while other agencies, including Morrill, the Scotts Bluff County Sheriff’s Department, Scottsbluff Police and Nebraska State Patrol responded. The Scotts Bluff County SWAT Team was on standby.

These types of calls are often called “swatting,” a prank call that deceives police and other emergency response teams to another person’s address. Sometimes, the calls are designed to harass a specific individual.

Unfortunately, Cotant said, it creates difficulties for law enforcement and the community.

“You can’t know (it’s a fake call),” he said. “You get the call, we have to go on it until we can prove otherwise. We respond as if it is an actual call. It was an awakening for us.”

A lot of time and resources were wasted by multiple agencies and first responders because of the call, Cotant said.

The residents of the home had no clue that someone had made a nefarious call involving their address.

“It scared them,” Cotant said.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely anyone who made the call will face charges. Cotant said all information gathered during the investigation will be collected and forwarded to the FBI.

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