Police swarm Rochester house after devious prank call from Australia

A prank call traced to Australia caused police to swarm a Rochester man's home as at least a dozen first responder vehicles closed a residential street.

Police swarmed the location indicated on this map, Monday night. (Google Maps and YouTube screenshot)

At least 10 police cruisers, medical responders and an armored vehicle showed up to a Rochester house, responding to what officers later learned was just a prank call.

Multiple agencies converged on the 3500 block of Birchwood Lane Southwest in Rochester Monday night after dispatchers received a call around 10:30 from a man claiming to have just killed his own uncle. The caller added that he had an AR-15 style rifle he would use to shoot at police when they arrived.

Police did arrive, closing a street with their Emergency Response Unit (analogous to a SWAT team) along with state troopers, the fire department and a Mayo Clinic ambulance.

Officers tried to call the 44-year-old man they believed to have made the initial report, to no avail. They eventually used a loudspeaker, directing him to come outside. Once outside, the man explained that he didn’t answer his phone because it was turned off, and that he had not killed anybody.

Police Captain Casey Moilanen said the department didn’t find any evidence of murder and is investigating the incident as a potential case of swatting.

Swatting is a type of dangerous and illegal practical joke where someone calls the police claiming that a serious incident has occurred at the location of the person they’re trying to harass. The offender will often claim to be the person they’re pranking, issuing terroristic threats to provoke the largest possible police response.

In this case, the real caller appears to be in Australia, not Minnesota, making it unlikely they will be brought to justice.

Unfortunately, this crime is becoming more common as online criminals discover new ways to place fake calls hidden behind layers of anonymity. If an offender doesn’t want to make the call himself, “there are even swatting services available on the dark web,” Michael Argast, co-founder of cybersecurity firm Kobalt.io, said earlier this month.