Damn Daniel: Teen behind viral meme 'swatted' at family home

‘Swatting’ involves placing a fake emergency call describing a crime taking place at the home of an unsuspecting victim

Two teens became viral stars last week after a video showing one of them repeatedly exclaiming “Damn, Daniel!” at the other took off into the meme stratosphere. Now, police say one of the two newly-minted Internet celebrities was “swatted” at his California family’s home.

Someone called a police non-emergency line at about 1 in the morning Tuesday, claiming he had shot his mother in the head with an AK-47, said Lt. Christian Dinco of the Riverside Police Department. A “large number” of officers responded to the residential address given by the caller, including the department’s air unit and SWAT personnel. Dinco estimated that as many as 30 to 35 officers showed up at the home, prepared to encounter an armed murderer.

But what they found was quite different: a family stepped outside of their home to speak with the assembled officers. It quickly became clear that no one had been shot inside the home, and that the original call to police was false.

The family told officers that they believed the call was “associated with an online posting … called ‘Damn Daniel’ ” that one of the family members had recently made. And it wasn’t the first weird and bad thing that had happened to the family in recent days: They’d received several prank calls to their home, Dinco said, though “nothing nearly as dramatic” as the swatting attempt.

In case you’re not familiar, a swatting involves placing a fake emergency call to authorities and describing some sort of horrible crime taking place at the home of an unsuspecting victim. The idea is to get the SWAT team to burst through the door of the victim with the intent of apprehending a dangerous criminal.

Although swatting has its origins in a couple of Internet subcultures, the practice has targeted a wider range of victims in recent years, including a current member of Congress who had introduced anti-swatting legislation. Some police departments, such as Riverside’s, are now aware of the phenomenon and have responded to these pranks before. But swatting can create an intensely dangerous situation for its victims.

Dinco noted that officers “can’t treat [potentially false emergency calls] as though it is a prank,” and have to respond to each call, like the one placed Tuesday morning, as if it is real. But Riverside police receive a couple of fake calls like these a year, and are very aware that “there’s a possibility [an emergency call] could not be true,” he said.

The matter is under investigation, Dinco said. Police haven’t arrested anyone, and are working to uncover the identity of the caller. In the department’s experience, people who call in with a swatting attempt typically “use techniques to mask their identity” from police.

Swatting is a misdemeanor in California, thanks to a law that recently went into effect in the state, Dinco said. It’s punishable with up to a year in jail. Swatters could face felony charges in cases where victims are injured, Dinco added. In this case, no one was hurt.

The “Damn, Daniel” meme was also the subject of a bad Internet hoax in recent days, claiming that the “Daniel” of the video was mugged and robbed, losing the white Vans mentioned in the video to criminals.

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