A man from Coventry has become the first Briton to be charged by police over the “swatting” craze that sees computer gamers make fake calls to police to implicate other players in serious crimes.
Robert McDaid, 21, is alleged to have called a terrorism hotline in the US state of Maryland posing as a man called Tyran Dobbs.
Claiming to be armed with a gun and several bags of explosives, he said that he would kill three hostages unless $15,000 (£12,000) was delivered in a red bag to his address.
Taking the threat seriously, armed police then raided Mr Dobbs’ home and shot the 20-year-old between the eyes and in the chest with rubber bullets, breaking bones in his face and bruising his lungs. Images taken after the incident show him with a heavily swollen, bruised and cut face.
After realising their error, investigators said they traced the call to Mr McDaid, who has now been charged in the US with three offences, including conspiracy to produce false information and hoax. He faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted.
The US Department of Justice said Mr McDaid was reportedly acting at the request of an American gamer called Zachary Lee, who contacted the Briton via an internet telephone service in February 2015 and asked for his help in “swatting” Mr Dobbs.
Mr McDaid is said to have responded: “I’ll do it when I’m up”.
The “swatting” trend – named after the Specialist Weapons and Tactics (Swat) teams that often respond to the calls - has seen police respond to hundreds of false reports by raiding the homes of completely innocent people who have been reported by their online rivals.
Mr Lee has been charged with the same offences as Mr McDaid.
Maryland US prosecutor Rod Rosenstein, who has been nominated by Donald Trump to be Deputy Attorney General at the US Department for Justice, said: “We are working with officials in the UK to ensure that Robert McDaid is held accountable for his alleged actions because the alleged criminal activity represents a grave threat to public safety.”
Mr Dobbs, meanwhile, has criticised police for their response and asked why they did not check the authenticity of the call before acting.
Officers reportedly ignored his father, Tom, and his cousin telling them there was no hostage situation and that the so-called hostage taker was actually asleep.
In an interview with US news channel ABC7, Mr Dodds said: “How did y’all not trace this call back? How did y’all not figure out where it came from?” I want justice. I want them to pay for my medical damages and I want whoever shot me in my face to have to do some time."
The Independent was unable to reach Mr McDade for comment.