"Swatting" prank locks down part of Upper Uwchlan

Police locked down a neighborhood in Upper Uwchlan Township early Monday morning for a few hours after getting a prank call that someone had murdered two people inside a house and would kill any police officer that approached, said District Attorney Tom Hogan.

The caller, who pretended to be the owner of the house in the 700 block of North Reeds Road, said he had just killed his wife and grandson and warned police to stay away, Hogan said. The caller intended police and, more specifically, a SWAT team to go to the residence.

This prank call practice is known as "swatting." The county has seen a few cases of these types of pranks in the past, Hogan said. It is usually done either as retribution against the victim or as a joke for fun. The cause of Monday's prank is still under investigation, Hogan said.

Upper Uwchlan police officers, followed by members of Chester County's SWAT team, responded to the scene around 3:45 a.m. Monday. They soon suspected that the call was an instance of "swatting."

"It's not that prevalent, but it's prevalent enough for us to take notice," said Chief John DeMarco of the Upper Uwchlan's police department.

The homeowners' adult daughter, who lives in an outbuilding on the property, was out walking a dog when she was confronted with officers holding automatic weapons, Hogan said. She gave the officers a cell phone number to contact her parents, who came out of their house with no idea what was happening, he said.

Several celebrities have been the victims of "swatting" in the last few years, including Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise and Ashton Kutcher.

- Michaelle Bond