Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed

I’m writing this statement after 2 hours of sleep. Forgive me if I’m a little incoherent in places.

First, the timeline of events:

Last night, around 10:20 PM, I received a knock at my front door. I live in a secured building, and it’s rare that I have visitors, so it wasn’t any huge surprise to me when I opened the front door and 6 officers from the Oakland Police were standing outside.


citizen-report-2 Report from January

Leo, my golden retriever, followed me to the door, so I only opened the door partially and was blocking him with my body to keep him from rushing out to make friends. One of the officers asked me if I was OK. I told him I was fine, and I immediately followed that up by asking if a SWAT threat had been called in. They confirmed this, and I told them I had a police report filed documenting that people were threatening to call in fraudulent reports.

I told them my dog was friendly, and I asked if I could give them this report. They said yes, and they asked if they could come inside and make sure everything was OK. I agreed. Four of the police stayed outside, and two came in. I was asked if anyone else was here, if I was living alone, why someone would call in a false report, and other various pertinent questions by one of the officers while the other took a look around my apartment.

After they had asked all of their questions and were sure that no one was being held against their will, I was informed that someone had called the police “from an iPad” stating that there was a ransom situation at my address, and they wanted $10,000. When I had opened the door, all guns were holstered. I was told that had I not filed a report back in January documenting these threats, that would not have been the case.

Officer & RD

Officer & RD

I asked for a copy of the report. They didn’t have one to give me yet, but they did write down the primary officer’s name, K. Kenery, as well as the RD number, 1085.

We spoke for a while about online harassment and the growing issue of SWATing. We discussed OAPI, the need for more training for officers, the problems behind prosecuting the people making these threats, and about specific provisions in California law that deal with online threats. I told them I was sorry that they had been called out, because this is a waste of government resources. They told me that they were sorry that this was happening to me. They now have my phone number, and know that I’m available to them anytime they have any concerns regarding these issues.

Request for Info

Request for Info

This morning, I went to the Oakland Police Department, because I knew they were getting hammered with requests from the media as well as random supporters of GamerGate attempting to disprove that the SWAT incident had happened. I wanted a copy of the report for my own records, as well as time to sit down and talk to a few other people at the station about semi-related concerns. Once I arrived, I was informed that I needed to put in a request for the case details, and it could take up to 2 weeks to receive the information. No one would receive any information before 2 weeks, because that’s how long it takes to put it all together.

That was my experience. Now, let’s look at how this usually goes down. I highly recommend you watch the entirety of this video.

That video was not a dramatization of events. Those are all very accurate examples of what usually happens when someone is targeted for SWATing. So why is my experience different, and how can some targets of online harassment lower the chances of this happening to them?

I filed a report months ago when I knew I was becoming more of a target. See here & here – but careful, those sites are not work safe. It was a bit of a battle to get the police to take me seriously. I even had to talk my way into the building. I came in late at night, and they didn’t even want to talk to me. They had no idea what SWATing was, and they saw threats of calling in false reports as being something that doesn’t happen from online trolls. I persevered, the report was filed, and I received a call from another officer at that station a few weeks later apologizing for the difficulty I’d had.

Be prepared for that. Come in with a clear and simple definition of these terms. If possible, have one or two examples of people threatening you online. SWATing is becoming more common place, and the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative and Crash Override are both working to make these problems more visible to law enforcement, but it’s still a battle. Be calm but firm. Be polite and respectful. Bring a lawyer if you have the resources to do so, because the presence of a lawyer tends to make the police take you more seriously. Officers are still going to have to go check out the situation, but it may keep them from pointing guns at your face.

I believe you should be able to walk into a police station, state that you’re an activist or that you’ve been doxxed, and the police should keep that report in the event of a SWAT threat being called in. I don’t think we’re really in that place yet, and we have to tread carefully.

I was very upfront and public about going to the police early. This is likely what kept these criminals from acting until now. But I’ll be the first to admit that my level of transparency isn’t an option for everyone. My WHOIS records aren’t private. I can’t be blackmailed or threatened with the releasing of information. Everything is public.

Let’s be frank about why I’m targeted. I’m loud. When I see bad things happening, I fight back. I never retreat into a corner. I’m not humble or demure. I’ve got ego to spare.

I’m going to be completely real with all of you for a moment in a way that I usually won’t allow myself to be. Online, I have to be a hardass. I can’t be human anymore. I can’t be vulnerable. There are so many things that I can’t say that I wish I could.

Somehow, I evolved from a DevOps engineer to one of the figureheads against online harassment. Somehow, I ended up becoming a female founder in a Silicon Valley non-profit startup. Somehow, I ended up buying a wonder woman outfit (yes, I’m serious). Somehow, I became a weapon to be used against trolls, a target for trolls to abuse, and in both cases, less of a person. Somehow, somehow, somehow.

I’m learning to be OK with this. I’m trying.

It’s hard. It sucks. I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m hurt. Every mean comment hurts. But I can’t think about it, and I have to keep moving, because I won’t accept violent or sexual threats as being acceptable. I won’t ever accept having to plan for being SWATed as part of being an woman that is opinionated, playing video games, or working in a male dominated industry. Online harassment is a big deal for everyone, but if you look at what’s happening online, the majority of victims are females. Many of the most visible cases are females in tech. And none of them have been able to talk about the abuse they personally have received without other people perpetuating this abuse by telling them that they are lying.

I gave up some of my personal agency to fight for something that is more important than any one person. I don’t want anyone else to have to do the same. There are ways to support our efforts that don’t involve putting yourself on the front lines. We’ll be talking about that next week on FLOSS Weekly, which will be followed by a post here and on OAPI’s site. Stay tuned.

Incidentally, they knew I was home because I’d tweeted that I was playing Heroes of the Storm. Sorry I wasn’t streaming, assholes. You would have seen Leo getting hugs and pets from the police.

For one last thought, I’d like to say thank you to OPD. Oakland Police handled this incident with compassion and respect. My night could have ended a lot differently.

  One thought on “Tales from the Trenches: I was SWATed

  1. Sherrie
    April 6, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    I wish showing vulnerability was more accepted by society. I really hope you have a good support network of friends. You deserve support and love and the option to express your vulnerability. Fuck those assholes who turn it into a weapon against you. I feel so angry and want to do more to help. Thank you for everything you’re doing. You’re making a real difference.


  2. N
    April 6, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I would like to point out that “SWATing” is quite clearly attempted first degree murder, attempting to trick the cops into committing the murder. It should be prosecuted as such.

    Liked by 1 person

    • johnmburt
      April 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      There are a lot of crimes, ranging from public intoxication to starting wars with bald-faced lies, which simply are not prosecuted if the offender is the right color and gender, and if the victim is the wrong color and/or gender. One of the biggest reforms this culture needs is to establish actual equality before the law.
      The attempted murder of Randi is just one more crime which probably will not be prosecuted.


  3. April 6, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Whether you’re pro or anti GG I think we can all get behind you in saying that online harassment and doxxing is wrong. Period. I’m absolutely willing to come “across the isle” so to speak on this one. There’s absolutely no excuse for swatting. Even the person who invented the ggautoblocker. It doesn’t matter how much of an asshole you think someone is. Absolutely no one deserves to be swatted. It’s not funny. It’s not witty. We all know the police is militarized and we all know it sucks. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. April 5, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Zarathustra the Serpent and commented:
    For more details, some documentation, and advice on how to approach the police if you are worried that someone will try to SWAT you, see her post.


  5. April 5, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Thank you for taking your preventative measures and posting/sharing the process and advice. I have been impressed with OPD since we moved here last year.


  6. April 5, 2015 at 5:15 am

    As one techie to another, I applaud your standing up. If you ever need a friendly techie assist, say the word, I’ll do what I can. Setec Astronomy!


  7. April 4, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    I very much want to know if whoever called in the threat is arrested.


  8. Dan Langille
    April 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    I look forward to hearing what happens to the person who sent that message from that iPad.


  9. Frostbite883
    April 4, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Sorry you got swatted, Randi.


  10. Michael Lindsay
    April 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    I seriously hope more people are arrested and jailed for SWATing. The thought of some idiot going “soldiers/cops pointing real guns at people and about to use them, lol” is absolutely sickening.


  11. April 4, 2015 at 10:41 am

    I appreciate the heads up. And sorry you are on the leading edge of this. Having been in a somewhat similar situation a few years back I can empathize. Zealots can be incredibly dangerous. I’ll try to help get the word out. This kind of thing used to make me terribly angry but I burned out on anger, not it just makes me sad for our race. In any case if there is anything else we can do to help please let me know. Like a lot of folks here I’m with you in spirit and like all things this too will pass. And if I may say, I pray the person who did this to you learns to regret, deeply, what they have done. There really is no excuse for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. April 4, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Thanks for doing what you do. You’re suffering some seriously awful shit, hopefully so the next woman doesn’t have it quite as bad. I hope that it gets better as time goes on, and you continue to have love and support from people while it does.


  13. Jordan
    April 4, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I’m glad that you’re doing the stuff you’re doing. I’m hoping that women everywhere can get a little inspiration and hope from you. I’m sorry that you have to suffer this kind of stuff, and probably worse.

    So yeah, thanks a lot.


  14. Dennis
    April 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Randi, I’m a 50-something dude who found you through PZ Myers’ (another 50-something dude) Pharyngula blog. I have never participated in gaming, but I do have daughters, and the misogyny (especially the gleeful, proud variety) make me sad and sick. I wish you all the best, and I applaud your moxie and courage. Fare well!


  15. April 4, 2015 at 8:44 am

    Randi, you are not alone. I promise you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The internet can be a vile, ugly, nasty, evil fucking place, as you’ve already seen and experienced. But it’s also an amazing way for people to band together and support one another.

    DON’T read the comments and mean things these…these…I don’t even have words for them…except for… MONSTERS. Sociopathic shitheads with no empathy, no compassion and no soul. What a sad existence.

    I’m glad you informed the police months ago that this may happen. And I’m sorry you’re going through this. But know that you have love and support from people from all over the world.

    This has to stop.


  16. Anonymous Bill
    April 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Glad you’re ok, and that you’d warned them in advance. Nobody should have to put up with this kind of abuse.


  17. April 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    I know it’s hard, but you’re up to the task. My daughter likes gaming, and she needs people like you to look up to. As a mom, I thank you. As a woman, I say YOU ROCK!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Ivan
    April 3, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    I’m just a random internet person but if it’s any consolation, you’re fighting the good fight. Best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. April 3, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I’m glad you are out there fighting this. I worked for a decade on contract for a company as a community manager and technical support for the end users. I ended up quitting because I just could not take the harassment any longer. Phone calls at night to my home, my house, my husband, to my work, death threats – and the company I worked for just shrugged it off as nothing we can do about these people.

    While it was no where near as bad as having being SWATed (that wasn’t around then) it still left me with sleepless nights, crying often, depressed, and wondering about my safety.

    All because some dweeb thinks that being behind the anonymity of the internet makes harassing people alright. It’s not alright because I had to leave a job I loved because of it.

    Keep at it – we’re all behind you.


  20. April 3, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Damn, that’s scary. I’m glad you’re okay, and that your mitigation strategy worked.


  21. funjon
    April 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    The first follow-up video from that “10 Gamers Swatted Live” was the 15-year-old kid who got sentenced to 25-to-life for swatting. I wish more would get caught and prosecuted. https://youtu.be/KcCa8BH7gpk


  22. April 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Just terrible. I don’t understand why people can be so cruel and not understand it isn’t a game.

    I know you were prepared but I’m still sorry you had to deal with that. While it sounds odd, I’m glad it did happen to you so that you could fully explain your experience and better serve to provide advice on how others can help mitigate the risks surrounding SWATing. This is a good resource for folks and I hope they pay heed to it.

    Thanks you,
    Jennifer J Medina


    • April 3, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks. It’s appreciated. I saw your tweets yesterday. Faved one.


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