Five law enforcement agencies responded to an emergency cell phone call shortly after 11:30 a.m. Sunday from a man who reported harming three people and was about to harm himself in the vicinity of the 100 block of 18th Avenue N. in Princeton.
The situation and reported incident is currently under control and being classified as a “swatting incident” by Princeton Police Chief Todd Frederick, who spoke with the Union-Times shortly before 2:30 p.m. this afternoon via telephone.
Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person's address.
“A male party called dispatch on a cell phone and said that he had harmed three people,” Frederick confirmed. “This individual said he was going to harm himself and was at a location that was described as the Belle Haven Townhomes in Princeton, near First Street.”
Officers and deputies from the Minnesota State Patrol, Princeton Police Department, Milaca Police Department, Mille Lacs County Sheriff, and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources responded to the call, and when they arrived, Frederick said officers and deputies just had a reference to Belle Haven Townhomes.
Lt. Gordon Shank, public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol, confirmed the Patrol assisted the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office regarding response to the incident.
“Nobody reported anything suspicious, and nothing that would have led us to believe that something had happened,” Frederick further explained. At that point, he and Mille Lacs County Sheriff Don Lorge made a joint decision to up a perimeter and have officers go door-to-door to every townhome unit, doing welfare checks.
“We cleared each individual residence to make sure that there was nobody inside who may have made this call,” Frederick said.
Frederick said law enforcement was unable to ping or track the alleged phone.
“We now believe at this point this was a swatting incident,” Frederick said. “This is apparently an unfounded incident. There is currently no public safety threat."
According to Frederick, the law enforcement perimeter around Belle Haven Townhomes was a block radius. North Ambulance was also on scene in a standby mode.
“We had enough of a law enforcement response to set a perimeter up pretty quickly. It allowed us to keep the situation contained,” Frederick said.