Man sentenced after deadly ‘swatting’ incident
A man has been sentenced for calling S.W.A.T. on someone who refused to give up their Twitter handle.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WVLT) - A man was sentenced to five years in prison for an international ‘swatting’ scheme that lead to the death of a 60-year-old man from Sumner County, The Commercial Appeal reported.
Lauderdale County resident Shane Sonderman, worked with others, including a minor in Great Britain, to try to force people to hand over control of social media usernames through harassment, including swatting, authorities said.
Swatting is an illegal practice of falsely reporting life-threatening emergencies at a person’s home, causing heavily armed police, and sometimes S.W.A.T. teams, to respond.
Sonderman provided contact information to a co-conspirator about Mark Herring, who controlled the Twitter handle @Tennessee, according to court documents.
On April 27, 2020, that co-conspirator called Sumner County police to say “that he had shot a female in the back of a head and she was dead, and that he would use pipe bombs placed at the front and back doors if police responded,” according to a statement signed by federal prosecutors.
“Emergency responders were dispatched, and when they arrived at Herring’s home, guns drawn, they called for Herring to walk toward them, keeping his hands visible. As he did so, Herring, 60, appeared to lose his balance and fell to the ground, unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital; cause of death was determined to be a heart attack,” court records state.
“He just wanted to be @Tennessee because he loved the Vols,” daughter Corinna Fitch told the station.
Herring’s relatives told WKRN-TV in Nashville in a recent interview that Herring was a tech-savvy grandfather who joined Twitter in the early days when many handles were still readily available. They said an anonymous caller contacted Herring on the day he died, demanding he hand over control of the @Tennessee handle, but he refused.
This isn’t the only time Sonderman and his co-conspirators have made threats and harassed others for their usernames.
Sonderman and his co-conspirators are accused of using similar harassment tactics with other people, including a victim in Oregon called K.G. in court papers.
They are accused of harassing a victim in Oregon called K.G and K.G.’s parents in Ohio by sending unwanted deliveries of food and by falsely reporting a fire at their house on April 14, 2020.
They then sent K.G. a message reading, “did your parent’s enjoy the firetrucks?” followed by “i plan on killing your parents next if you do not hand the username on instrgam over to me,” according to the indictment. Federal documents list other victims in New York, Virginia and Michigan.
Sonderman entered a guilty plea to conspiracy in March.
U.S. District Judge Mark S. Norris declined a defense attorney’s plea for leniency on Wednesday, sentencing Sonderman to five years in prison with limited Internet access and requiring him to receive mental health treatment.
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