An online gamer's video shows the moment armed officers burst into an office in a Colorado town Wednesday afternoon to investigate a report of an "active shooter." The report proved to be false, but the investigation caused nearby schools to enact security procedures and businesses to be evacuated.
Officers were searching the office buildings at West Mineral Avenue and Broadway in Littleton, Co. after a report of an active shooter was phoned in but found no evidence of a shooting. They now suspect this was a false report and are searching for the person who used a landline phone to call in the hoax.
"The caller claimed to have shot two co-workers, held others hostage, and threatened to shoot them. He stated that if the officers entered he would shoot them as well," the Littleton Police Department said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"There were no victims or any evidence that a shooting had taken place," police said. "If the investigation determines that today’s incident was a hoax, those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
OUr sister station, 7NEWS, reports sources said Littleton police did bring someone in for questioning in connection to the incident, but that person was released, pending a further investigation.
--Video shows purported SWAT entry--
7NEWS was on the second floor of one of the buildings as employees were being questioned at a production company that specializes in video game-related content. According to online business listings, the company is called The Creatures LLC.
That business is named in a video posted Wednesday that purports to show SWAT entering their office. The video, which was apparently recorded from a gamer's previous live stream, was posted to YouTube Wednesday afternoon.
The video first referred to 7NEWS was removed just before 4 p.m., but at least one other version was also posted.
The 6-minute video clearly shows a man, who uses the online moniker "Kootra," on other social media accounts associated with The Creatures. In a corner of the frame, Kootra is shown with a microphone and headphones. The rest of the frame shows the video game he was playing.
As the video starts, Kootra is looking over his shoulder at the door.
"Uh oh, this isn't good," he said. "They're clearing rooms. What in the world? I think we're getting swatted."
--Gamer: 'Think we're getting swatted'--
"Swatting" refers to a prank phone call that causes a SWAT team to respond. The intention is presumably to interrupt a business or cause other problems.
About 26 seconds into the original video reviewed by 7NEWS, Kootra removes his headphones as officers burst in and order him to raise his hands. They are clearly armed, pointing weapons at him and ordering him to the ground.
In the next few seconds, Kootra is searched on the ground.
An officer asks "What about this is funny to you?"
"What? I'm not doing anything that is funny," he responds.
Eventually, the officers help Kootra to stand and he is searched again before being seated in a chair.
The second half of the video shows Kootra sitting in the chair with his hands restrained behind his back, talking with the officers.
At about 3 minutes into the video, Kootra can be heard telling the officers that the office contains some "fake prop guns." Meanwhile, the video game fills the majority of the frame and other players can be heard talking about attacking the character Kootra was controlling.
Police later told 7NEWS that checking simulated weapons in a gamer's office slowed the pace of their search in the office building.
-- Social media blame --
A Twitter user with the handle @ScrewPain appears to be taking the blame for the "swatting" call. His first message from Wednesday was sent at 11:02 a.m. and includes a link to The Creatures' account on video game streaming site Twitch.tv.
The next message at 11:04 a.m. says, "get owned @Kootra."
Police said their first 911 call about the active shooter was around 11:30 a.m.
Other messages from @ScrewPain say "#BlameComcast" and "#ISISGang." Some even include replies to other members of The Creatures.
In one message, addressed to our @DenverChannel account and the City of Littleton, says "your pd" and shows a picture of a marionette puppet.
-- Schools, businesses affected --
During the SWAT operation, Littleton Public Schools placed several schools on secure perimeter, lockdown and/or lock-in. All of those security measures were lifted by 12:35 p.m.
Photos from the scene showed employees in the building being evacuated in small groups, some with their hands raised.
"Law enforcement in the South Metro Area and throughout the country are all too familiar with active shooter situations. In the wake of these incidents, Littleton Police and other law enforcement agencies train for rapid response to quickly rescue victims and neutralize the situation," police said. "Fortunately there were no injuries today, but a massive law enforcement response wastes resources and greatly increases the chances of innocent people being injured or killed."
Aspen Academy parents received a message that said, "Aspen Academy is on lockout due to an active shooter situation occurring at Mineral and Broadway. All students are safe and secure." That lockdown was also lifted about 30 minutes later.
The office building is located about 4 miles from the school.
The City of Littleton said that due to police activity in the area, the buildings at 1221 W. Mineral Ave. and 1241 W. Mineral Ave. were under lockdown as a precaution. Both buildings were released from that security measure at 12:36 p.m.
Workers at Alcohol Monitoring Systems, inside one of the affected buildings, were told to remain in place while officers searched the building. The firm's spokeswoman, Kathleen Brown, told 7NEWS that all of her co-workers were OK.