Crime

SWAT swarms Parkland teen's home on hoax call. He was in D.C., receiving human rights award

Parkland shooting survivors Emma Gonzalez, left, and David Hogg, far right, pose for a photo with Mitch Dworet, father of Nicholas Dworet, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was killed during the shooting in February. The newly graduated students, who have become activists, announced plans for a 20-state tour dubbed The March For Our Lives: Road to Change on Monday, June 4, 2018, at the City of Parkland Amphitheater. The group plans to meet with young voters and campaign to end gun violence.
Parkland shooting survivors Emma Gonzalez, left, and David Hogg, far right, pose for a photo with Mitch Dworet, father of Nicholas Dworet, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was killed during the shooting in February. The newly graduated students, who have become activists, announced plans for a 20-state tour dubbed The March For Our Lives: Road to Change on Monday, June 4, 2018, at the City of Parkland Amphitheater. The group plans to meet with young voters and campaign to end gun violence. Miami Herald

There was a telling clue when a SWAT team swarmed the home of a prominent Parkland teen activist Tuesday morning after the Broward Sheriff's Office received a call that his family might be in danger. No one was home.

The call, it was quickly clear, was a hoax called "swatting" aimed at Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg and his family. Such prank calls, which are illegal, have increasingly been employed as a harassment tactic.

Hogg, an 18-year-old new graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High who has emerged as a leading national voice on gun control, was in Washington, D.C., at the time with his family. He was there to accept a human rights award from the Robert F. Kennedy foundation when the BSO phoned.

"They called me and said 'Are you being held up?' " Hogg said. "I was like, 'no.' "

Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Gina Carter said the call came at 8:39 a.m. reporting someone was in the home with a weapon in a possible hostage situation.

"SWAT responded,'' Carter said. "They cleared the home. It was a hoax and we will be investigating."

Since the Feb. 14 massacre at Stoneman Douglas High by a former student with an AR-15-styled rifle, which killed 17 students and staff, Hogg and other students have championed an overhaul of gun laws. He was one of the leaders of an anti-gun march in Washington in March and has been pushing elected leaders in Tallahassee and in the nation's capital on gun control measures.

At the end of May, Hogg led a sit-in at a supermarket after learning Publix had donated a large chunk of money to a state legislator who prides himself on being pro National Rifle Association. On the afternoon of the sit-in, the giant supermarket chain announced it was suspending political contributions. Hogg is also one of several young leaders who will take part in a bus tour this summer to several cities in a get-out-the-vote campaign.

The continuing campaign has led to social media attacks against many of the young activists, including Hogg, from many conservative and pro-gun commentators.

Hogg said people who disagree with his activism are seeking to intimidate him as he embarks on a nationwide tour with March For Our Lives organizers ahead of the 2018 elections.

"It's a distraction," he said. "It's a distraction from the movement and what we're trying to do."

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat who faces a challenge from current Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott for his seat, said the incident reflected the current state of American politics.

"These students are getting all kinds of threats and it's going beyond threats, they're getting actually incidents," said Nelson who attended the awards ceremony. "And it's a shame that we can't have discourse in America over the issue of gun safety that people have to take it out in attempted intimidation of these students."

Swatting has become a sort-of phenomenon around the country, especially when it involves celebrities. In 2015, dozens of Miami Beach police officers and SWAT members raced to the home of rap icon Lil Wayne on land, by water and with K9s after someone placed a prank call to police.

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