LENEXA, Kan. -- A call for help sent more than a dozen police officers rushing into a Lenexa neighborhood Thursday, but police say it turned out to be a hoax.
And that swatting call not only put the innocent victims and police in danger. It might have affected other people in crisis, too.
"An individual who had shot their father and said that they were going to shoot their mother and anyone else who responded to the residence here in Lenexa," Lenexa police spokesman Danny Chavez said of the call police received Thursday.
Fifteen officers surrounded a home on Caenan Lake Road.
"In this case we actually shut down part of the neighborhood, part of the block," Chavez said. "Officers surrounded the home in question, front side, back side and attempted communication on the phone and the police loud speaker."
The mother and son who live in the home came out, not knowing what in the world was going on.
"Until we determine that things are safe, they are treated as potential suspects by our officers. So it can be very traumatizing to them," Chavez said.
Swatting is when someone places a hoax call to law enforcement in order to get a large group of armed officers to show up at an address. It's a trend police are seeing in the online gaming community.
In 2017, a Wichita swatting call turned deadly when the victim was shot by police.
In Thursday's case, Chavez said the suspect was messaging the National Suicide Hotline through the KIK app, a text messaging platform.
"(The) suicide line was calling out dispatchers and relaying that information," Chavez said. "So we were getting this second-hand, which complicates matters."
For those who work for suicide hotlines, it's a frustrating situation to receive a false report.
"The system does work. I would say it works better when it is not clogged up with calls from people who are not actually in crisis," said Susan Crain Lewis, the president of Mental Health America of the Heartland, a suicide prevention organization in KCK.
Crain Lewis said suicide hotlines are very busy these days because suicide is on the rise, especially in Kansas. In Johnson County, teen suicide has increased by 50 percent, and in the rural communities, there is a spike in suicide among men.
"And there is a finite number of people who are there to receive those calls. And if they are spending their time on calls that aren't real, there is a very strong potential that someone who really did need help had their call unanswered."
Lenexa police said they think the person who made the swatting call might be in New York. When they are caught, they will face interference with law enforcement charges among others.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.
Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
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