Twitch streamer swatted in the middle of livestreaming making tacos after viewer told police he killed his family
- Twitch streamer Nick Frags was making tacos when armed police showed up to his house.
- It was a dangerous prank that's becoming common towards internet creators — and it can be fatal.
Nick Frags was in the middle of livestreaming himself making tacos for his family when one of his rescue pit bulls started to behave strangely. Ringo, who is blind, is very in tune with his surroundings, Frags told Insider, so when he started to wander around the living room, Frags knew something was up.
"I looked outside and I just saw a police officer in his car and he pointed at his eyes and pointed at me," Frags said. "And I was just like, all right, I've seen enough of this — I know what happens."
Frags, 38, has been on the streaming platform Twitch for eight years, where he streams videos of himself cooking under the name HeyItsMeSalty. His time on the platform meant he knew immediately that he was a victim of swatting — when a viewer will call law enforcement with a made-up threat at a streamer's address, such as saying they are selling drugs, have a gun, or have hurt their family, so that armed police show up.
Shortly after Frags noticed his dog pacing around, he said he was met with a group of about 12 police officers with their guns drawn. Frags said he made hand gestures to the officers that he could see and hear them, and they responded by telling him to come out with his hands up. He kept the stream going, and told his viewers what was happening. The whole time, he kept thinking about his dogs, and pleaded with officers not to hurt them.
Horry County and Myrtle County police departments did not return Insider's request for comment. On the stream, an officer in what appears to be body armor can be seen walking past the camera holding a rifle before a voice off camera announces "Horry County police."
Frags went outside and was handcuffed, he said, and he was told what he had been accused of. He realized the police had come over expecting "a shootout."
"This caller, according to the police, said that I shot everybody in the house," Frags said. "This person's intent was to get me shot and killed."
Swatting is intended to cause harm to streamers and can be a serious crime
Swatting is an issue that has threatened livestreamers for years, and often has links to the far-right and misogynist online communities. Streamers who express opinions that receive backlash from their audience or who get into feuds with other creators tend to be common targets for swatting. The term refers to Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, teams of law enforcement that will forcefully respond to what they believe are crimes in progress.
Increasingly, swatting seems to happen for no reason at all. In February, Twitch streamer Alliestrasza had her home raided while she was livestreaming, and was visibly shaken by the experience of having armed police search her home while she was handcuffed. Last year, Felix "xQc" Lengyel said he had to move houses after getting swatted almost every day. Popular YouTuber Ethan Klein has been swatted so many times he says that cops call his cell phone whenever they get a report.
Sometimes innocent bystanders are also caught up in swatting attacks. In 2018, a 28-year-old man named Andrew Finch was shot and killed by a SWAT team on his porch after a streamer, involved in an online dispute, gave out a false address that was actually Finch's.
Frags couldn't think of a single reason why he was targeted. While he sometimes plays the open-world survival game DayZ — which has been accused of having a "toxic" community — the majority of the time he simply cooks on his channel where he has 32,000 followers.
"I'm not a streamer of that size, I'm a retired chef that's back in college getting his marketing degree," Frags said. "I don't understand what people get out of that. I guess there's some people that just aren't wired like the rest of us."
—Full Squad Gaming (@fullsquadgaming) June 22, 2022
Swatting is a continuation of the sexism that has plagued the streaming world for a long time
Christine Tran, whose research focuses on platforms and livestreaming at the University of Toronto in the Faculty of Information, told Insider audiences can feel a sense of entitlement over the creators they watch. Livestreaming is usually embedded right into creators' homes, Tran said, which "really does sell this sense of not just intimacy, but shared placement and shared time."
Swatting also cannot be separated from the racist and sexist harassment that has plagued streaming, particularly the gaming community, long before the rise of Twitch, Tran said. They said it could be seen as a continuation of targeting anyone that's "other" and "justifying various forms of technical and social tactics to push them out of their home."
"It certainly hit a certain note that he was attacked during an activity that we often view as feminine, like cooking in your home," said Tran.
In the paper "Death by Swat: The Three Elements of Swatting," published in the academic book "Video Games, Crime and Next-Gen Deviance: Reorienting the Debate," criminologist John Bahadur Lamb described swatting as a "deviant behavior" which "blurs the line between the prank, criminal activity designed to harm an individual and social policing effort."
"This is partially due to the motivations of the individual who triggers a swatting and partially because the outcome of swatting cannot be predicted in the same way that the outcome of most traditional pranks can," he wrote.
The reasons for swatting are numerous, he added, and include "the perpetrator seeking humor, revenge, to discredit the victim, or potentially to create a fake incident which serves a politically violent purpose."
Creators consider swatting almost inevitable if they reach a certain size
Tran said in their research, the risk of swatting and doxxing are concerns even among small creators. The anxiety is so intense, creators are careful not to even show anything outside of their windows in case viewers spot clues about their whereabouts. They are also changing the way they stream and how they share, which is a challenge when being an influencer relies so much on familiarity and relatability.
Frags, although shocked when the police appeared, also felt it was something of an inevitability it would happen to him.
He said he was just glad he was home alone when it happened, as his girlfriend, her children, and her mom were out. But everyone in the private gated community they live in saw the police cars and sirens. A lot of retirees were "on their front porch watching," he said.
Once the police were happy there was no threat, Frags said he invited them back for food any time they wanted because they did a "really good job." A couple of the officers were aware of what swatting was, which helped deescalate the situation, Frags said.
But the situation was still terrifying, Frags said, because so much could have gone wrong. After taking a break for a few days, Frags is back to streaming, and making it up to his neighbors by cooking them dinner.
"Today I'm making Ooni pizzas," he said.
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