Man's Death During Swatting Incident Tied To Twitter Handle And Criminal Campaign
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The death of a 60-year-old man in Bethpage, Tennessee last year has been connected to a swatting incident organised on gaming messaging platform Discord by minors in both the United States and the UK, according to a recent report by local news station, WKRN-TV.
The ABC-affiliated station put out an update regarding Mark Herring, who died in April 2020, connecting the grandfather's death during a swatting operation - he collapsed with a heart attack when police arrived at his property, and could not be revived in hospital - with a criminal campaign orchestrated in some degree by minors on both sides of the Atlantic. Herring's crime: having a valuable Twitter username.
As the WKRN-TV report below reveals, Herring's Twitter username of @tennessee was, the host says, "a rare username worth thousands of dollars". A then-minor by the name of Shane Sonderman was part of a criminal campaign to intimidate Herring into giving up his username, and he posted Herring's address and other personal details onto Discord.
Herring's daughter, Corinna Fitch, explains that Sonderman, who was also local to Tennessee, "collected all of our information... he put it on a channel on Discord, which is a gaming chat forum". She then says that a second minor, based in the UK, was also involved, and was the one who directed the cops to Herring's home: "A kid in the United Kingdom made the call to my dad's local police department."
While Sonderman is currently jailed over the incident and awaiting trial, with a total of six similar cases against him regarding intimidation over Twitter handles, the British minor will, another WKRN-TV reporter states, not be extradited to the United States due to their age. Herring was the only one of Sonderman's targets to die.
Fitch adds that the price of these Twitter handles, running to three thousand dollars, is "pennies" in relation to a life lost. She says that those found guilty of swatting should face more severe consequences than Sonderman's potential five years in prison and $250,000 fine, concluding: "You've not just changed that one person's life, you've done a ripple effect. They need to pay for that."
Sadly, swatting - where a police raid is called in as a prank - has become something we're seeing, and reporting on, several times every year, almost always connected to gaming. Just recently, streamer xQc admitted he moved address to avoid repeated raids by the police, and Call of Duty player Brad Overbey has talked openly of almost dying because of swatting operations. Many other gaming disagreements have led to swatting incidents, and it's highly probable we'll see further serious, potentially fatal outcomes of these raids in the future.