An unknown person attempted to send armed tactical teams to the Missoula home of Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr hours after her girlfriend, Erin Reed, a prominent transgender activist and journalist, was the target of a SWATting attempt in Maryland.
Reed said Tuesday morning that somebody tried to send officers into her home, but because she had reached out to her local police department months ago anticipating such an event, officials called her first and then sent a patrol car to conduct a wellness check rather than sending in a heavily armed SWAT team.
On Twitter, Zephyr drew attention to her partner’s situation. Since both women have a high-profile platform as transgender Americans, they have become targets of right-wing radicals’ ire at a time when members of that community are under political attack nationwide.
Zephyr tweeted on Tuesday night that someone had also tried to send officers to her residence.
“Someone just attempted to SWAT me as well. I am fine,” she wrote.
“An individual reported an anonymous tip targeting my home in Missoula, and the police recognized that it was likely a hoax and called me.”
She wrote that she “will not be deterred” because “the fight for trans rights goes on.”
Right-wing trolls, including those with Twitter’s new blue checkmarks and strong online followings, questioned whether the attempted SWATting incidents actually happened, claiming it appeared that they weren’t true.
An officer with the Missoula Police Department confirmed to The Advocate that the incident occurred.
“We took the call seriously and quickly contacted the representative immediately,” said a spokesperson for the Missoula Police Department. “We confirmed everyone was safe. We determined the threat was from an FBI tip (not local), and it was unfounded.”
In recent years, SWATting, or calling a police department and reporting an incident that would prompt a tactical team to respond and storm into a location of an unsuspecting person, has become a way to terrorize people because of some perceived slight over the internet.
At least one person was killed in a SWATting incident in 2017 when a Kansas man was killed by police in Witchita after somebody called in a hoax at the man’s address. The man responsible for the incident is serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for making the hoax call.
A spokesperson for the FBI tells The Advocate that the agency is aware of the ongoing issue of SWATting and warns people not to engage in this dangerous crime.
“The FBI takes swatting very seriously,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “These threats put innocent people at risk and cause significant fear in the community. We continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners and are actively investigating these dangerous and criminal threats.”
The spokesperson continued, “Multiple agencies are working to gather and share information and respond to these threats with a shared goal of keeping the public safe. We urge the public to remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity and/or individuals to law enforcement immediately.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to reflect comments from an FBI spokesperson.