A teenager is facing up to 18 years in prison on charges that he hacked into California's 911 emergency response team. His actions resulted in the sheriff's department dispatching a heavily armed SWAT team into the home of an unsuspecting couple.
Randell Ellis, 19, of Mulkiteo, allegedly used his computer to call the Orange County 911 dispatch on March 29, 2007. The exact details of the case are not clear, but what he probably did was spoof his victim's house number. In the ensuing 38-minute telephone conversation, he managed to convince dispatchers that he committed a murder on the premises of his victim and was ready to do it again.
Within minutes, fire, police and a helicopter team had been dispatched to the home of the Lake Forest, California couple, whom authorities declined to identify.
"They surrounded the home, inside were a husband and wife and their two toddlers," said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman with the Orange County District Attorney's office. "The husband heard rustling outside of his home and believed it to be a prowler. He took a knife and went into the backyard. Instead of finding a prowler he found a SWAT team pointing assault rifles at him."
"It really easily could have escalated into an innocent person being killed," she added. "We're lucky that they didn't shoot him."
This incident reportedly cost the country an estimated US$18,000.
Authorities said that Ellis had made nearly 200 fake 911 calls to various dispatch systems around the county. He is set to be arrainged on Monday, in Santa Ana, California.
Do you think that an 18-year jail sentence for this crime is excessive? What if someone had been killed as a result?
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.