GPD investigating “swatting” call that falsely reported shooting, hostage situation on Maple Drive

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

The Griffin Police Department is investigating the false report of a shooting and hostage situation at a Maple Drive residence.

A call was placed to Spalding County Sheriff’s Office administrative line Sunday Wednesday night reporting the violent crime was still in progress and included threats to kill responding law enforcement officers.

According to Rachel Holt, an SCSO dispatcher, the caller, whom she described as a “frantic male,” stated he had shot his mother, had tied up two sisters and was going to kill police officers if they showed up at the residence located at 1340 Maple Drive.

Holt attempted to verify the address provided by the caller but said he would not repeat it.

She then reported the call to the Spalding County 911 Center as SCSO personnel was attempting to pull up the recorded phone call.

Sgt. Lee Ward, of the GPD Uniform Patrol Division, provided further details of the call in his report.

“While on the way to the call dispatch advised that a male caller who refused to identify himself said that he had just shot his mom and had two kids tied up,” Ward reported. “He mentioned having a pipe bomb and threatened to shoot police if they came. He also threatened to shoot himself.”

Upon arrival in the area, Ward established a perimeter a distance from the residence and a command post was established by Lt. Brian Jones.

Meanwhile, dispatch reported having contacted a resident, Aleia Ruppel, who said she did not know what was happening.

“I advised dispatch to advise her to step out of the front door with her hands raised and walk to the front of a small car in the yard, which she did. As I walked down to the front of the residence I observed a white male in the doorway. I began giving both of them verbal commands to raise their hands, turn around and for the female to walk backwards towards the sound of my voice,” Lt. Jones said. “She was then placed in handcuffs by Officer Chelsea Jones. I then advised the male to walk backwards towards the sound of my voice, which he did and was placed in handcuffs.”

Ruppel and the detained man both reported there were numerous other adults and children in the residence and said that all was well.

Sgt. Chip Johns reported that as the man and woman were exiting the residence, he spotted another man and woman at the bottom of the driveway, both of whom were also detained.

Lt. Jones entered the residence with several additional officers and escorted another man out of a bedroom.

As officers were clearing the residence, they located children in the home.

“We made contact with a juvenile at the bottom of the stairs. She stated that her two other sisters were downstairs,” Johns said. “I advised her to get her sisters and come upstairs when she did.”

Altogether, three men, two women and five children were present in the residence when the false criminal report was made.

None of the residents or responding officers sustained injuries during the response.

“The officers handled this call professionally and tactically. They all responded calmly and were able to make sure the incident was not as reported,” said GPD Public Information Officer Laurie Littlejohn. “This could have had a very tragic ending.”

When asked the greatest risk associated with swatting, which Littlejohn described as a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending police to another person’s residence, she said, “The greatest risks in a case such as this would certainly be the safety of the individuals in the home, the risk of injury to offices and lastly, taking resources away from incidents that truly do require police presence.”

She encouraged anyone faced with such a situation to remain calm and comply with officers’ directions.

“Residents when faced with a situations such as this should cooperate and comply. The on scene officers have no idea if they are facing an actual hostage/shooting situation. When compliance is achieved and once the situation has been deescalated, the results will be as they were in this case (sic all),” Littlejohn said. “No one was injured and this incident ended with a positive outcome.”

GPD Chief Mike Yates also praised his officers’ response to this dangerous situation.

“They handled a remarkably difficult situation successfully which was enhanced by the cooperation and understanding of the individuals involved,” Yates said.

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