Parkland, Fla., shooting survivor turned anti-gun activist David Hogg avoided another potentially deadly incident Tuesday — after police armed with assault rifles kicked down the door of his family home. Broward County sheriff's officials were responding to a call that Hogg and his family had been taken hostage by an assailant armed with an AR-15.
That call turned out to be false.
Hogg, thankfully, was out of town when police arrived at his doorstep en masse — prepared for a shootout with an armed menace.
The teenager was gracious enough to write the incident off as "just a silly prank" — language that was echoed by local police and a number of prominent media outlets.
This was not a prank. A prank is ordering 10 pizzas to someone's home who didn't ask for them. Or asking if someone's refrigerator is running.
If initial reporting about the incident proves accurate, this was attempted murder. (Or, to be more precise, manslaughter.)
The dangers of swatting — as the practice of summoning police to someone's home under false pretenses is known — are obvious.
In December 2017, a 28-year-old father of two named Andrew Finch was shot and killed by police after a California man allegedly called police and told them that a man at Finch's address had killed his father and was holding the rest of the family hostage.
Finch, completely unaware of what was happening, opened his front door in response to calls from police and was summarily shot to death.
That Hogg dismissed his swatting as a prank, of course, isn't his fault. He's undoubtedly terrified and just wants this to go away and have it never happen again.
It's police and the media who need to be more responsible with their language and treat this incident for what it was.
We live in a country where police can and do kill citizens if they feel threatened. Sending police into a home invasion scenario — facing down an AR-15-toting hostage taker — was well calculated to create a justifiable threat. That Hogg has become a lightning rod for controversy — drawing the ire of pro-gun activists in particular — only made the threat more plausible.
Whoever swatted Hogg more than likely knew police could inadvertently shoot and possibly kill the teenage school shooting survivor or a member of his family. We need to treat this reality with the gravity it demands.
Matthew Fleischer is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.