The Orchard Park Police Department has launched an investigation into a swatting incident after someone called authorities to falsely claim that an old man had been kidnapped by four Black men with guns.
According to WKBW, Tyrell Johnson, a Buffalo contractor, and his cousin, were doing repair work on an Orchard Park home on July 9 when someone called the police on them and made the false allegations. In the video that Johnson shared on TikTok, an officer who ultimately responded to the scene is heard saying he believes someone made the call in an attempt to get a huge police response to the residence.
“As I am at the top of my ladder, I see the police actually coming through the trees and that’s what made me actually pull my phone out and record because I don’t know why he’s coming through the trees for and I know he’s looking right at me,” Johnson said.
In the video that has since been viewed more than 600,000 times, the officer is heard telling Johnson that they “got a call about four Black males tying up an old man, kidnapping him.” The Black contractor replies that he doesn’t “know nothing about that.”
Johnson later descended a ladder he was on and further engaged the officer. “He told me that he got a call about four Black men, armed Black men, were on the property kidnapping an old guy. I was a little confused at first. I kind of just stood there like, ‘What?'” Johnson told the news outlet.
During their conversation, Johnson tells the officer he can knock on the door. “No one lives here though?” the officer asks. Johnson says, “I mean, you can knock on the door.” After the officer asks Johnson if they “have any issues with anybody”, the Black contractor asks what the caller said. “They said, they saw one old male get kidnapped by four Black males with guns,” the officer responds.
The swatting phenomenon is said to be on the ascendancy. Per WKBW, Buffalo and Lockport police were among multiple police departments that had to respond to calls about fake bomb threats at schools between the end of March and early April.
“People that make those phone calls, the intention is to get a large police response, which ultimately could lead to a tragedy because the nature of the call is some type of violent crime in progress so it heightens the senses of the officers and they tend to respond to those situations very quickly, and in great numbers,” said retired Buffalo PD Captain Jeff Rinaldo.
To serve as a deterrent, a bill introduced by State Assemblyman Scott Gray seeks to make swatting a “class e” felony instead of a misdemeanor crime. “Most agencies here in Western New York don’t have a full time SWAT Team so you won’t actually see a SWAT response until they’ve actually identified the need for those resources,” said Rinaldo.
“Again, it is a crime. If somebody, God forbid gets hurt, whether if it’s the police officer responding to it or a member of the public, it is rapidly escalated to a felony crime. The consequences are quite severe for that.”
Though the situation left him frustrated, Johnson said he was glad nothing bad happened to him and his cousin. He also labeled what happened as racist. “I’m not out here treating people bad. Treat me like a human being. I am trying to make a living just like everybody else. That’s all,” the Black contractor said.