Arkansas-based owner-op Keith Lawson, leased with Central Hauling/CalArk, had heard of fellow truckers who use Youtube for live streaming from various locations on the road and at home getting pranked in various ways. Instances abound where “people ordered 20 pizzas, strippers, somebody ordered a bouncy house” and had them sent to the unsuspecting Youtuber, Lawson says. “One guy was doing a live stream from his car at a Walmart, and somebody called police to do a welfare check on him, saying he might be committing suicide.”
But none of that prepared him for the extreme situation he found himself in this past Friday. During a casual end-of-week live stream from the comfort of his desk at his home with his many followers on the computer in front of him, Lawson’s dog went crazy with a knock on the door where he was greeted by four police officers with weapons drawn ordering him out of the house.
“Scary stuff,” says Lawson. “Somebody had called 911 and said I’d shot my wife in the house.”
His wife wasn’t actually home — “a good thing,” he says, as she’d probably have been the one nearest the door and “she would have probably had a heart attack had she been there.”
That wouldn’t have been the first unintended consequence of such a “swatting,” as such malicious events are called. Police killed an innocent man in Wichita, Kan., after showing up at his house in response to a fake 911 call placed by Tyler Rai Barriss from Los Angeles, who claimed a hostage situation at the man’s location. Barriss is serving 20 years in prison as a result. As of this report in the Washington Post, two others were awaiting trial in the scheme as well, which resulted from disputes between grown men playing the Call of Duty game online.
Owner-operator Lawson’s episode was captured mid-live-stream on his Youtube channel (the police show up at around the 49-minute mark) — as he got up to go to the door, his computer continued to stream as his dog kept barking, with police seen on-camera at one point giving the room a once-over look.
Lawson was outside awaiting the all clear, though definitely shaken. “The police weren’t playing around when they got there,” he says.
The four officers on his front lawn weren’t the only ones one the scene, he found out the next day. “I went around to my next-door neighbors’ to let them know what was going on,” he says, and “they told me, ‘They were in our front yard with their AR-15s drawn” as back-up.
Lawson, too, in the aftermath turned off location services on all his social-media accounts in order not to broadcast his location at any time, and though he’ll continue to stream via PaleriderTV, “I won’t do them from home anymore – I’ll also do them from the road, but I certainly won’t be saying where I am anymore.” He feels the perpetrator in the case “had to be somebody that was watching. I usually don’t have haters like that” among followers.
Like most anybody who uses social media these days to effect, “I have trolls here and there,” he adds, “and some people may not like me for whatever reason, but this is taking it a step above and beyond. Maybe somebody did it for a joke who didn’t realize how serious it was. I hope they’re not that stupid.”
Police in his area remain serious in their pursuit of the offender: ” There’s a detective on the case,” Lawson says, “and I talked to him yesterday and they’re taking it pretty seriously.”
If you’re out there doing live streams online, he says to anyone with a large following and any notoriety at all, “be careful about where you’re broadcasting from.”