Pismo Beach shooting report was false alarm, possible ‘swatting’ incident, police say

Reports of a shooting in a Pismo Beach home on Friday afternoon turned out to be false, according to the Pismo Beach Police Department.

A man called Pismo Beach police about 2:34 p.m. Friday and told them he had shot his girlfriend and had his daughter inside a home on the 100 block of Wave Avenue, police Cmdr. Tom Portz said.

However, when officers arrived at the scene, they found a family of three inside the home with no shooting situation underway, Portz said.

Police are attempting to determine who placed the call, and whether it was a “swatting” incident in which emergency services are deceived into sending authorities to another person’s address.

“The man who called said that he shot his girlfriend and had his daughter inside, and it sounded like a murder situation,” Portz said.

Portz said police from multiple South County agencies surrounded the home, believing it was a live shooting situation.

Police respond to a false report of a shooting Friday at a residence on Wave Avenue in Pismo Beach. Joe Johnston

Police also barricaded Wave Avenue and a few blocks along Highland Drive for about an hour.

Portz said Pismo Beach police will be investigating who made the call. It’s a crime to make a false report to police, he said, and the person would be arrested if caught.

“It was a blocked caller ID, but we have our ways of tracking the call,” Portz said.

Portz said the residents inside the home at the time — two adults and a minor — were “surprised” and shaken up by the incident.

Police respond to a false report of a shooting Friday at a residence on Wave Avenue in Pismo Beach. Joe Johnston

Police cautiously approached the home, and spoke with a man who was outside the residence and unaware of what was going on.

“Once we were able to talk to him, we had a pretty good idea it was a false alarm,” Portz said.

Swatting incidents have resulted in police shooting people inside homes, believing that an active shooter is inside.

In 2017, police fatally shot a Witchita, Kansas, man, Andrew Finch, after responding to a hoax 911 call from California about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch’s home.

In November 2018, Los Angeles resident Tyler Barris pleaded guilty to 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats — including the false report that led to Finch’s death, which reportedly resulted from an online gaming dispute. Multiple past swatting incidents have been associated with gaming and e-sports communities as a form of retaliation and intimidation.

It remains unclear if that was the reason for the call that sparked Friday’s incident in Pismo Beach.

“We just don’t know yet,” Portz said.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.