A grandfather died of a heart attack after minors swatted him over his rare Twitter handle
In brief: Another swatting attack has resulted in an innocent person losing their life. The incident, which took place last year, saw a 60-year-old grandfather targeted by minors in the US and UK because of his valuable Twitter handle. He suffered a heart attack when police surrounded his home and died shortly after.
WKRN News 2 (via GamingBible) reported new information on the April 2020 incident involving Mark Herring of Bethpage, Tennessee. A swatting incident—the act of calling 911 to report a fake crime so armed responders storm an address—was organized on Discord in an attempt to intimidate Herring into handing over his valuable @tennessee Twitter handle.
A then-minor by the name of Shane Sonderman was part of the campaign against Herring. “He was from Tennessee,” says Corinna Fitch, Herring’s daughter. “He’s the one that collected all our information, my address, my sister’s, my moms, my mother sister, and put it on a channel on Discord, which is a gaming chat forum.”
A second minor, from the UK, called the local police department to make the false report. Herring’s son said: “The neighbors called and said ‘There’s police everywhere, and they think a man has killed a woman and he’s on your property, you gotta take cover.'”
“He went out the house with a gun, because he heard someone was on his property,” Fitch explained. “He sees all these cops around him, and they ask if he is Mark Herring, ‘put your hands up,’ so he tosses the gun away from him to show he’s not a threat, and [put his] hands up.”
It was then that Herring suffered a heart attack. He died in hospital soon after.
Sonderman is currently jailed over the incident and awaiting trial. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine—a punishment Herring’s family says is inadequate. “You’ve not just changed that one person’s life; you’ve done a ripple effect. They need to pay for that,” said Fitch.
As the minor in the UK who made the call is still underage, they cannot be identified or extradited.
Fitch added that Twitter handles such as the one used by Herring can go for up to three or four thousand dollars, “Like, pennies compared to a life.”
Back in 2018, Tyler Barriss, the 26-year-old California resident behind a series of bomb threats and other crimes, including a swatting incident that resulted in the death of Andrew Finch, pleaded guilty to 51 federal charges. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The co-defendant in the trial, which revolved around a $1.50 wager on a Call of Duty: WWII match, was sentenced to 15 months.