A throng of police and tactical units descended on a Palisades Park garden apartment complex Friday night in response to what turned out to be a bogus 911 call of a man with a bomb strapped to his chest.
The swatting incident forced the evacuation of the West Central Boulevard complex off Grand Avenue after a 911 caller told a dispatcher around 9 p.m. that "I just shot my father," Detective Alex Monteleone said.
Units were rushing to the site when the swatter called again, saying he'd shot his dad a second time, he said.
The third time, he said he had a pipe bomb strapped to his chest that he'd detonate if police tried to enter the apartment, Monteleone said.
Palisades Park officers, detectives and command supervisors were quickly joined by a Bergen County Regional SWAT Team and police from Fort Lee, Leonia and Ridgefield, the detective said. EMS was put on standby.
Police contacted the building superintendent, who supplied the phone number of the apartment tenant, Monteleone said. The number didn't match up with the incoming 911 calls, he said.
A negotiator from Fort Lee then called the resident, who told police that he was home alone and apparently unaware of the commotion outside.
"He exited safely and the apartment was cleared," Monteleone said.
Residents were allowed to return, barely an hour after the incident began, he said.
Capt. Anthony Espino thanked the various agencies for their assistance and the residents for their cooperation.
Espino, the officer in charge of the department, said an investigation was continuing. He also expressed concern over the dangers of swatting calls.
Deploying SWAT teams and additional personnel to unsuspecting victims’ homes and businesses -- as well as to schools that end up being locked down -- can put people in danger while diverting resources from potential areas of critical need, Espino said.
Swatting incidents peaked nationwide about five or six years ago before subsiding somewhat and then recently flaring again.
A bogus call to Paramus police last summer that shots were fired at the Garden State Plaza brought a huge response, authorities said.
Contrary to what some believe, swatters are caught.
A former research and development director from Fair Lawn man was charged last year with calling seven bogus reports of domestic violence at the same Ramsey address, said police who arrested him for the “swatting” incidents.
Espino asked that anyone with information that could help authorities find whomever was responsible for Friday night's incident call Palisades Park police: (201) 944-0900.
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