Police find man and girlfriend who were subject of hoax gun threat call safe


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Officers respond to the scene outside Engelhart Hall at Emerson Street and Maple Avenue.

Ryan Wangman, City Editor

Police have not yet identified the person who called Evanston police yesterday and claimed to have shot his girlfriend in Engelhart Hall.

The man who called in gave a name of a real person and the name of that person’s girlfriend. Both that person and his girlfriend are safe, police said, and they are not thought to have been involved in the incident. An unidentified person called Evanston Police Department yesterday, sending the Northwestern campus and Evanston community into panic after the caller claimed he had shot his girlfriend in the graduate student residential building.

In the aftermath of the hoax, EPD identified the person the caller claimed to be and his girlfriend — who is a Pritzker School of Law student, Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said. As the situation was unfolding yesterday afternoon, Glew said he didn’t think the couple were aware they had been dragged into it.

Glew defined the event as a swatting incident. Swatting is when a person calls 911 claiming to be involved in or having witnessed a crime, attempting to mobilize a SWAT team in response. Chris Carver, operations director for the National Emergency Number Association said callers sometimes use technology to make the call appear from either the location of the incident or nearby. He said the person making the call is often far away and targeting a specific person but in some cases means to disrupt larger communities.

Glew said yesterday that the call appeared to have come from near Rockford, Illinois, which is more than a 90 minute drive from Evanston.

“The reason these acts are so successful is because if (police) are given a report of a very serious situation, they have to take it at face value,” Carver said.

During the incident, Glew said EPD and University Police were in contact by phone and radio, and both had their respective “decision makers” in the same area to coordinate the response. Anytime something happens on campus or in campus housing or buildings, EPD starts cooperating almost “minute one” with NUPD, he said.

Glew said he doesn’t see any future safety risks going forward, but emphasized that the police response would be the same in the future. He said the department has to respond to situations consistently.

Glew said once they identify the person who made the swatting call, they will likely face some level of felony charges.

Julia Esparza contributed reporting.

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