JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Kevin Corlew has filed legislation to address a dangerous type of harassment that has increased in frequency around the country. Corlew filed HB 2219 to criminalize what is commonly referred to as “swatting.”
Swatting involves someone making a false report of a shooter or a bomb at a victim’s address with the intent of drawing law enforcement officers to the house. Not only is the hoax a waste of law enforcement time and money, it also has the potential to lead to property destruction, injury, and even death. Corlew noted that a recent incident in Wichita, Kansas, led to the shooting death of an innocent man after law enforcement responded to a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at the home.
“The so-called prank of “swatting” can thrust unsuspecting and innocent persons and law enforcement officers into extremely volatile and dangerous situations. We must move swiftly to make sure that our false-reporting law has enough teeth to deter this new phenomenon,” said Corlew (R-Kansas City).
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd applauded Corlew for sponsoring the bill and said, “Swatting is a dangerous crime that endangers lives and diverts limited law enforcement resources from genuine emergencies. My colleagues in the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys and I look forward to working with Rep. Corlew to properly address this serious crime.”
To combat the swatting problem, Corlew’s legislation would make it a crime to cause an emergency response by knowingly communicating false or misleading information. Under the bill, the offense would be a class E felony if seriously bodily injury results, and a class D felony if death results. The bill would specify that anyone suffering bodily injury or loss as a result of swatting us entitled to civil action to secure damages or other appropriate relief. It would also require anyone convicted of the crime to be responsible for reimbursing a harmed party for the expenses of an emergency response.
“This legislation will prevent our tax-payer funded police departments from being used as pawns in sick pranks and, more importantly, will protect the lives of innocent persons and peace officers,” added Corlew.
HB 2219 now awaits assignment to committee for further discussion.