Getting into a beef with other players is often seen as just a part of playing online games like Call of Duty. But when it comes to players who take the remarks too personally or cannot lose graciously, the stakes have never been higher. That’s because there’s now always the risk of toxic behavior getting elevated to the extreme with swatting.
When that happens, police don’t hesitate to respond in full force, often with traumatic, if not deadly, results. And it’s not just a one-off thing. Here’s a look at five times Call of Duty gameplay led to bone-chilling swatting incidents.
One of the worst Call of Duty swatting incidents happened in December 2017, and it all started with an in-game disagreement. As Shane Gaskill and Casey Viner got into it, their argument escalated to a threat of swatting.
Gaskill mocked Viner’s threats, goaded him into doing it, and then gave him a false address. Viner promptly followed through by having Tyler Barriss send Wichita Police to the home of Andrew Finch, who was completely uninvolved in the incident.
As Finch unwittingly walked out of his home, he was fatally shot by police. Barriss ended up with a 20-year sentence for his involvement, Viner got 15 months, and Gaskill received an 18-month sentence.
YouTube personalities put themselves in the public eye, so it’s no wonder they’re often the target of swatting incidents. Brad Overbey learned about the dangers firsthand while playing Call of Duty in 2019 and again in 2020.
As he streamed his games online, several people made false claims to the police and sent them racing to Overbey’s home. Armed police officers showed up both times, leaving him struggling to explain what happened without unintentionally escalating the situation.
Although things have calmed down since then, Overbey stays vigilant, always aware that it could happen again. He still streams content about shooting games to this day despite the risk.
As a nationally ranked Call of Duty player, it made sense for James Eubanks to stream his gameplay. After all, people wanted to know his secret, and they were happy to view hours of content to figure it out.
Unfortunately, all that exposure meant big problems for Eubanks, like getting swatted more than a half dozen times over the years. Each time it happened, the callers claimed he had hostages or planned to set off a bomb, resulting in a massive police response.
Even though the situation keeps happening, police are no closer to solving who has made the calls. They claim that the callers use technology to hide their identities, effectively leaving them in the dark about whom to arrest.
Max and Victoria Zeisberg
Youtubers don’t even need thousands of followers to be at risk of Call of Duty swatting. Max and Victoria Zeisberg found this out in 2014 when the SWAT team surrounded their house after a night of online gaming.
As they looked out the windows, all they saw were rifles, shotguns, and handguns pointed their way. After a fraught encounter, the police cleared them of any wrongdoing. Afterward, they shared that one of their viewers impersonated Max and told them he had killed his wife.
The assailant was never identified, even though only a few dozen people watched their stream that night. The Zeisbergs continue to stream their gameplay, although they know how the swatting incident could have gone terribly wrong all those years ago.
Rafael Castillo was simply playing Call of Duty when police surrounded his home, intent on stopping a bloody rampage. The call they received was supposedly from Castillo, stating that he had killed his mother and planned to murder even more people. But it was all a hoax.
Instead, what really happened was that Castillo won the match, causing his opponent to impersonate him and make a horrific report to the police. A two-hour standoff ensued, involving the special operations unit for Nassau County and more than 60 officers total.
Ultimately, Castillo was cleared when officers saw that his mother was alive and okay. The assailant was never identified.
Swatting is a serious crime that can have deadly consequences. Hopefully, the police will find a way to track down the assailants, charge them appropriately, and send a strong message on how they’re not tolerating these actions anymore. In the meantime, Call of Duty players can do their part by reporting toxic behavior, refusing to engage in arguments, and keeping their info private.