Civic-minded Black Family’s Kids would have been sent to Child Protective Services over Non-Existent Law


“Soliciting without a permit”
“soliciting what?”
“Whatever you’re soliciting…”
“you don’t even know what I’m doing?”
“what are you soliciting?”


  • They wanted to arrest him and take his kids to protective so the parents would have a case with CPS , any thing to destroy a family for no reason


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***CORRECTION*** Mr. Marshall would not have been legally obligated to present his ID unless he had been arrested at the time of the command. Michigan is not a stop and ID state, meaning that more than RAS is required to compel citizens to present ID.


  • Imagine if police officers could be personally fined for unlawfull actions.
  • I love how cops are like “we don’t know why people don’t trust us”


  • Man I can’t imagine how ruined this guy’s life would be been without this wonderful woman


  • How could the cops be expected to know about a civil law that’s been around for only 400 yrs?


  • They had no problem trying to ruin this man’s life with a felony. Sorry isn’t enough.


  • They wanted to arrest him and take his kids to protective so the parents would have a case with CPS , any thing to destroy a family for no reason


  • You can tell that cop who initiaties the whole thing is really a dangerous guy. Its all about flexing power for him.


  • Both deputies should be fired. I understand the deputy wearing the glasses was fired, but the other one that stood by, watched, and did nothing to protect the victim from an unlawful arrest is just as guilty as the other. Both deputies are guilty PERIOD.


  • Love how the homeowner knows that petitioning is a constitutionally protected right


  • I love how down for the cause this random woman is. She’s just like, ‘oh word Officer? It’s like that?’ lol she’s not cool with their Gestapo tactics


  • The irony of him trying to obtain signatures for fair rights and then illegitimately cuffed is kinda amazing


  • I’m really impressed by the lady filming. She knew her shit and certainly conveyed it effectively and coherently. I wonder why she has to know all this, looks like this type of shit happens often around where she lives and she forced to have to know all these things. Sue the crap out of the department.


  • Some cops demand a “yes Master” attitude from citizens.


  • Ms Totsky is incredible. just unrelenting. perfectly handled to how she addressed the child situation then right back on the attack. total pro.


  • “Don’t mess with my rights” . How is such a powerful statement like that so easily overlooked by these two people?
    • Unchallenged power is like a drug and it numbs people who wield it.
    • because your first amendment is just an illusion or something told to a toddler to feel special
    • Shout out to the neighbor too! Looking out for him and the kids.


  • The shitty thing about all these cases is that the money that is paid out in these lawsuits is taxpayer money. What needs to happen is the money comes off their budget & then will start seeing some results.


  • Funny how the average person, with absolutely no police training/education, can have a better grasp of the law and our constitutional rights than the officers that are supposed to enforce those laws and protect those rights.


  • My props to the neighbor lady. I’m glad there’s more of us who are becoming outraged over racist and/or power hungry cops! I think both played a role here. Just my opinion. We all need to stand strong with other folks who are being treated unjustly. It’s absurd and pathetic that cops like this even exist! Officers used to be heroes and now they’ve become villains.


  • That was literally the most racially profiling and unreasonable search and arrest of a citizen that I have seen on this yet! The audacity of these officers challenging somebody on their own property is mind-boggling!


  • The truly tragic part of this interaction — there are two small children who have the majority of their lifetimes to not trust and/or hate police. Great job tyrant thugs.


  • Ms Totzke also has every right to sue: the deputies were abrogating her First Amendment rights too by denying her the right to participation in the political process.


  • Once again, all this injustice starts with an anonymous phone call from a Karen…if wrongly detained, these officers need to be held accountable AND these no life having 911 callers who get scared when they see black people minding their business..


  • This arrest truly breaks my heart. What bothers me most is the cop without the cap KNEW what was happening was WRONG in every sense of the word. When a good cop won’t stand up against a BAD cop, all trust is lost in this institution of law enforcement. This was only an act being perpetrated by a BULLY!!! The cop needs to go. Unfortunately, he will just move on to another town. HEART BREAKING


  • I’ve lived in Battle Creek my whole life and had no idea of this incident. Thank you for sharing, I am currently involved with the protection of rights and civil liberties in this city and this is great information to have.


  • Its BLATANTLY obvious that this Cop made the decision to arrest this man when he approached him with handcuffs in his hand already. Then he dodges every legitimate statement and question that both of these citizens present to him. There REALLY needs to be more done whenhiring these cops to determine who is right and wrong for this type of work.


  • Just the look on the deputy’s face while talking… It takes a different kind of strength not to fight back.

    • of everything this lady did right, keeping those kids safe until she was able to personally deliver them to family, she is an angel.
    • Bless that homeowner for not backing down and sticking up for him!
    • A repeated theme I hear in these cases is officer lack of training. For most of these officers training has nothing to do with it. They let their ego and temper control the situation and abuse their power.


  • I love how the gal took complete ownership of her friend’s rights being trampled, and correctly viewed that as her own rights being trampled. If you observe wrong being done right in front of you and don’t speak out, how can you expect to have someone come to your defense when you’re the one being wronged
    • you need to institute an “F minus” mark for situations like this.


  • The lady is brilliant. They was wrong for this. They all stayed calm and made sure the children stayed calm too. It’s just disgraceful that this goes on so much. Smh


  • You go girl!!!! So proud of her. We all need neighbours like this lady.


  • Mr. Marshall was much more composed than I could have been in the same situation. I admire his patience and self confidence.


  • It amazes me that when you don’t obey their commands. All a sudden they egos steps a break their own laws by making up laws to put you in cuffs. It also seems that Officers hate being wrong ergo the the ego again.


  • Got to love how the sheriffs dept still defended him by claiming he was right just not in that county. Sorry but collecting signatures is legal in all jurisdictions. It’s called the 1st amendment.


  • Caller: “hey there’s a BLACK man out here trying to fight for our rights and make our community safer… can you come arrest him and let him know he has no rights and is not safe” Dispatcher: for sure I have the perfect pair of officers.


  • …it is clear from the video that the deputies had no interest in carrying out a legitimate investigation to determine the legality of Mr. Marshall’s conduct…🔥🔥🔥🔥💯


  • A 911 call was logged on the basis of suspected solicitation?! The energy levels of the deputies was way outta proportion to the situation from the very beginning. I might be able to go along with them trying to legitimately establish his residency on that property to eliminate trespassing concerns but that’s about it.


  • The hateful & arrogant look on that cops face, tells you everything about him.


  • Man, when AtA ends up going all the way back to the Magna Carta, you know you effed up.


  • I love how the second officer was so ashamed that he left without saying a thing


  • This one really pissed me more the usual. What a piece of trash. The cop literally went out looking to bully people. Hope he felt like a big man. Definitely deserves to lose his job and any benefits


  • “Transparency and honesty to our community is the foundation to all of our success.” This from the Sheriff … who will not release the name of the deputy. How is that transparency?


  • Thank you Mrs. Totsky for standing up for your neighbor. Also, I am so glad that the officer was terminated. However, I’m pretty sure he just went to another office and was hired. That ability to be rehired is a disservice to peaceful citizens.


  • Seriously this is why people have serious problems with cops. This shit gives me heartburn.


  • Can you give the deputy a double Z- for a lower grade than an F


  • After watching so many of these interactions the default response the police have is stating “hindering* whenever something doesn’t go their way.


  • Thank GOD for good neighbors and citizen’s who refuse to allow crooked cops to infringe on our rights!


  • There are so many of these videos that could have been resolved had the officers approached these non-violent situations with a little more understanding and a WILL to hear people out.


  • What is unbelievable is that without cameras this guy would be a convicted felon and that is why these police officers need to lose their badge and go to jail


  • That’s was awesome! And has the proper ending with the cop losing his job. That was ridiculous. Here is a man that is a good father, good role model, model citizen, pillar of his community and it was evident just by looking at things in front of the officer. Definitely a penis envy arrest. Every neighborhood should be so lucky to have a dude like this taking initiative and making the neighborhood safer, better, raising property value. What’s not to like?


  • What’s funny is that the second officer definitely did not want to do what they were doing. He was just caught up in it and had to go with his partner.
    • He didn’t have to go with his partner. he could have spoken up for what was right. The good cops need to control the bad cops, otherwise they are all bad cops.
    • You ppl at naive if u think that blue line of silence is going to be broken that easily
    •  @Gundawindy Ricketts  Exactly. This fraternity and blue line bullshit with garbage qualified immunity is all part of the problem. Start arresting and charging corrupt officers, DA, and judges with crimes as normal citizens and it will reform real quick. Being put on paid/unpaid leave is not a punishment, and they should not be allowed to be hired in other counties or cities.
    • This is why people say ACAB. You can’t say they’re a good cop if they stand by when this happens. The real good cops are fired, marked as snitches and chased out, or dead.
    • “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
    • No he didn’t. He could have pulled his partner aside and said…Man I don’t think this is an issue. Let’s let it ride…but he didn’t. And because of that he is at fault too.


  • Yet another example of what society gets when we encharge our law enforcement to individuals with only a high school level education and an academy that is the academic the equivalency of summer school for most 1st yr JC, college students.


  • this needs to keep on until it costs cities more in wrongful arrest compensation than they’re saving in under-training and under-educating their police.


  • I have been watching this channel for 2 days straight as I just found it and this case blows my mind more than most. A: He is being accused of soliciting B: He is being told by the person on whose property the police is on, confirming that he is not soliciting. That alone should have been enough. I could go on but this is a blatant case of power tripping in it’s finest. I am relieved to hear that this police officer has been fired. Excessive use of undue unlawful power in it’s finest.


  • I feel like so many of these officers would learn so much if their goal truly is, and stays throughout an interaction, to maintain the peace. This is a direct example of how police involvement led to an unnecessarily escalated conflict (likely due to their egos getting hurt)


  • I recommend that all cops from now on use a hiring method of any cop new or old to go through an ego and control evaluation and training to determine if they are even qualified to be around anyone on the field. Not all cops are this way but this cop on here has a control problem


  • These thugs have become so used to violating people’s rights that it becomes second nature to them. Qualified immunity needs to be removed.


  • One thing I’ve learned by watching a lot of these videos is how difficult it is for some cops to disengage once it is determined that no crime is being committed. I would bet that you could find that officers are less likely to disengage when the ‘suspect’ is a POC, especially if it the suspect is a black man. I think that this type of behavior is what fuels black mistrust of the police much more than the high-profile shootings / killing do. It sucks that Mr. Marshall had to go through this; however, I’m hopefully that, by recording these types of interactions will allow them to be used in training more even-minded and professional police.


  • “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power” – Abraham Lincoln


  • Police immunity should be removed from Law Enforcement for this very reason. Training should include Customer Service.


  • This is outrageous. I can’t believe they really did all this while knowing they were being filmed too. Chilling to think then how they behave when they know no one is watching. The nerve!! That man did NOTHING!


  • “we’ll figure that later” is the cherry on top of ingoring the request to give name and badge number. While being video recorded. I facepalmed so hard I now have a hand tattoo on my face


  • Watching these videos and thinking about my adolescence in Baltimore… makes me realize how many times my rights where violated by Baltimore city police. I’ve been cuffed, slammed on the hood, searched and detained three times just because I was well dressed.. literal words from the cops mouth.


  • I need you to read to me for nighty night time. 30% of the reason I watch these is how articulate, calm, and concise you are in these videos.
  • Too many times we see so called law enforcement getting an “F” because of ego tripping self righteousness.


  • Here’s my problem. More times than not, even AFTER the cities or counties have paid out huge lawsuits, these Bozo’s are more often than not, still LEO, somewhere.


  • The best part…”yall messed up, ya messed up.” Officer Pudgy’s expression was worth his weight of gold!!


  • “You’re under arrest!” – For what? “We’ll figure that out!”


  • I’m on the side of the police when they are right. In this video, the man being arrested is right.


  • Learn the Law Follow the Law Especially if you are supposed to enforce it!!!


  • “I’m dealin’ with him not you.” The goddamn arrogance and ego it must take to say that to someone on that person’s property is staggering.


  • Sad to see police officers in my own hometown be so bad at their profession


  • Two years to be a hairdresser. Six months to be a cop…. Where’s the problem here?


  • The officer should have been arrested for the felony of violating this man’s civil rights.
    •  Deprivation of rights under color of law.


  • This has been taking place since 1836 with the opening of the first full time police department in Boston Massachusetts. If this is going to change, the first step is to devolve all city police, place them under the Sheriff.


  • So this good samaritan is actually trying to improve his community with no expectation of compensation going above and beyond his civic duties and some cops come harrass him. This type of shit makes me seriously angry.


  • What it boils down too is having to record everything all the time. That’s why I have a phone holder on my dashboard. If I ever get pulled over, my camera is going


  • it really angers me how these cops do what ever they want with citizens i know we have rights but cops dont care


  • This proves why any contact with police should be avoided whenever possible


  • 6 months of training is not sufficient, they literally can destroy someone’s life with legal actions. END QUALIFIED IMMUNITY


  • Trying to do something good for his community and this is what happens. Absolutely disgusting turn of events. I’d love to have neighbours like him and the woman who was filming.


  • “put your hands behind your back”


  • “I’m not doing anything illegal”
  • “We don’t know that, put your hands behind your back”


  • “I’m getting signatures”


  • “You’re soliciting, put your hands behind your back”


  • “That’s not illegal”


  • “We can’t think of anything else to do, we’re very low skilled individuals”


  • In the cops mind, it’s too much work to investigate what crime has been commited. Even if no crime has been committed, as long as a person makes a call, and police make contact, you’ve commited a crime and are going to jail. No questions asked.


  • This is possibly the most disturbing video I’ve watched on this channel, and that’s saying a lot. I am so disgusted by the officers’ absolute disregard for the law, civil rights, police procedure and just all logic. Losing their jobs is not enough. They need to go to prison and this man needs to sue that police department into bankruptcy.


  • This is a prime example of why we should always video any and all interactions with the police. Things can go sideways quick.


  • “How many times I gotta tell you to turn around and put your hands behind your back?” You gotta keep saying it until it’s a lawful order silly billy.


  • Imagine all those victims before because no cameras or phones caught such pieces of shit.
    • I was one of those victims from the LAPD in the late 80’s….that’s why when the King recording came out, I was SHOCKED someone got it on video
    • Oh they were and are commonplace. It sucks because there ARE many police departments across North America which are exactly what you’d hope they’d be, but since policing is such a necessarily invasive act (not in a bad way, just objectively by nature), the failures and crimes of bad officers and departments often have especially serious impacts on individuals’ lives.


  • Good cops do a job that does need doing, and that most of us really don’t want to do ourselves. I still agree with nation-wide police reform, up to the federal level of police regulation, and not just in the US, but certainly there first.



  • @Smile & Be Happy  I think Ryleigh doesn’t understand that cops like these do dirty things to people of color because of qualified immunity. With video of them committing battery and assault they don’t fear any punishment at all.


  • General question: can you get police removed from your property, like trespassing?


  • What’s ironic is, the officers are refusing to provide their own personal information as they commit a crime and are arresting him for ‘obstruction’ of a crime that doesn’t exist.


  • As a former resident of BC, I’m telling you this is how this counties cops have always been…above the law and people are nothing. Especially if you have issues beyond your control, they treat you like dirt


  • We had such high hopes for the unnamed deputy, he graduated at the top of his class


  • And again , if there was no one recording this tyranny who knows what would have happened to this man.. felony resisting? Tf??!!??


  • 13:34 I find this very troubling, for there is no part of the LEO conduct in the video that could possibly be lawful anywhere in the U.S.A., so to say that he was enforcing ordinances that are valid in other areas is either the scariest thought possible or a flat out lie. I’m going to go with lie so the public does not scream for prosecution of yet another thug with a badge. 18USC241 seems rather appropriate. Administrative leave is more condoning the behavior than anything, it amounts to a paid vacation.


  • This happens way too many times and it needs to stop


  • The ‘silent’ officer in the background who bought the business card knew it was all wrong! His behaviour when he handed over that card to her statements spoke louder than any words!


  • “We have a caller” Translation: we can do what we want, and you have no rights unless we let you have them.


  • I feel so bad for the good cops who are being judged because of tyrants like this! The guy was doing nothing wrong!


  • When the interaction started, I would have requested a supervisor on the scene now.


  • These police are literally ignoring the property owner who they were basically trespassing. Wow this has me heated.


  • Even in states that “claim” to be stop and ID states still must have RAS of a crime to ID or detain you.


  • Another example of why I LOVE good cops.


  • What we need to remember also is the police are usually called in by a neighbor.


  • “I’m collecting signatures”


  • “Signatures for what?”


  • “It doesn’t matter”


  • “It DOES matter” — because if we don’t like what you’re collecting signatures for, we’re going to arrest you.
    • 100% …he didnt dare say what it was for…
    • The irony is amazing


  • I swear most of those videos could’ve ended in less than a minute if everybody did what that lawyer in Alabama did. When cops want to arrest you for false accusations just go with it, comply and remain silent. When they take you in, get a lawyer and congrats for the money you’re about to make. But making a scene and giving the cops a lot of points to argue with against you?!


  • “there was a phone call”
    • Apparently that line can have all your rights violated.


  • These seem like cops that have a very strong understanding of the impunity that the qualified immunity grants them
  • .. Yeah I think The cop did it right. That’s exactly how they do me every time. Tell me about the laws im breaking threaten to arrest me. And then ask me what I’m doing.


  • What I find even more frustrating is that “solicitation” is what the 911 caller said it might be, and nobody, from the dispatcher on down to the Barney Fife the idiot who arrested the guy neither knew nor bothered to look up if “solicitation” was even a thing in their municipality.


  • For the record: This didn’t happen in Battle Creek, it happened in Springfield, a small city completely surrounded by Battle Creek in the northern part of the city.


  • I live one county north, less than 30 miles away, and I’m familiar with the area.


  • 10:44 his silence spoke volumes….he knew they were done



Cops wanted to make her a felon, but missed a key piece of evidence

Michelle Lucas, a community activist and grandmother of four, was devastated when she was charged with two felonies for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill. Our investigation uncovered evidence that forced prosecutors to admit the police had made a mistake and had an unexpected impact on her case.

Trolls turned 911 into a weapon. Now cops are fighting back

Ijeoma Oluo was boarding an early morning flight at Boston’s Logan Airport when she got a call from a number she didn’t recognize. A 911 dispatcher from Washington state was on the line: someone had reported a double murder at the author and activist’s home.

Oluo was almost certain she’d just been “swatted,” meaning someone had made a false report of extreme violence at her residence to prompt an overwhelming response by law enforcement. The term comes from the acronym for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams that deal with active shootings, armed robberies or hostage scenarios.

Oluo told the dispatcher her 17-year-old son was home alone, and that no guns were in the house. Even so, she panicked. Having written about encounters between police and people of color, she was acutely aware of what could go wrong.

“I was terrified they were going to come in guns blazing. I was bawling,” she said. “To send cops to the home of a black person — expecting dead bodies and guns — is really risking someone’s life.”

Anyone with a grudge and someone’s address can make a ‘swatting’ call, but what was once a niche prank played by gamers has become a favored means of terrorizing famous, controversial and vulnerable people. It has also become more organized in recent years, with online forums and chat rooms dedicated to targeted attacks on individuals, including YouTube personalities, tech executives, activists, authors and journalists.

Law enforcement agencies and city officials around the country have responded with anti-swatting procedures and tools to blunt this weaponization of the 911 system. In Seattle, the police department has launched a three-pronged approach that includes special training for officers and 911 operators and — a first for the U.S. — a registry for residents who think they may become swatting targets. The registry gives first responders a warning that an emergency call about a violent situation may be a hoax.

After a year of honing these procedures, Seattle police are sharing their know-how with law enforcement agencies throughout the country, while calling on lawmakers to make swatting a federal crime.

“This is not an accident. It’s intentional behavior intended to punish people for who they are, where they work, the color of their skin,” said Seattle PD’s public affairs director, Sean Whitcomb. “It’s happening every day in America. It’s awful for us and it’s awful for the community.”

Weaponizing 911

The sudden arrival of unneeded law enforcement officers can be defused quickly, but at worst, it can result in injury or death. In December 2017, California man Tyler Barriss made a hoax 911 call about a hostage situation at an address in Wichita, Kansas, that resulted in police fatally shooting an innocent man.

At the time of the fatal swatting in Wichita, Seattle PD was already dealing with “dozens of attempted swattings” every month, according to Whitcomb. Targets included executives at some of the high-profile technology companies in the city, which include Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, as well as video game streamers.

Image: Sean Whitcomb
Seattle Police Department’s public affairs director Sean Whitcomb.Seattle Police

Swatting is not only a safety risk for targets, but also to police, both in terms of reputation damage and the costly waste of police time.

“Swatting can really tie up city resources,” said Seattle resident Naveed Jamali, a former intelligence officer in the United States Navy Reserve who now co-chairs Seattle Police Department’ Swatting Mitigation Advisory Committee. “Then from a human perspective, there’s a huge risk of violence. So there’s a huge liability potential to the city and it’s also weaponizing a police force against private citizens.”

In June 2018, a Seattle resident who feared a Wichita-style tragedy asked the department to pre-register his address as a swatting risk. The request gave Whitcomb the idea for a city-wide registry, and the registry became part of a unique three-pronged protocol. In September, the police department also established the swatting advisory committee, which includes police, prosecutors, and 911 dispatchers, as well as gamers and tech workers from the city’s large tech community.

Announced in October 2018, the Seattle swatting protocol includes two training measures already used in some cities, including Los Angeles, where swatting of celebrities has occurred sporadically for years. As in L.A., Seattle police teach workers in the 911 center to identify potential swatting calls, and ensure responding officers are aware of the potential for a hoax and take a cool, cautious approach to potential confrontations.

The most innovative part of the protocol, the registry, lets members of the public pre-register their addresses and contact details in an online database via a secure portal. To date, the city has registered 57 profiles of people who believe that they may be swatted. So far, four of them have been targeted by swatters.

The Seattle protocol has already been replicated elsewhere, including Wichita. Earlier this month, representatives from Seattle PD spoke to the New York Police Department to discuss a joint working group dedicated to swatting, sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Seattle’s police chief Carmen Best told NBC News she was “reaching out to all my networks” including the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Human and Civil Rights Committee to try and bring other agencies on board.

Anti-swatting registry

In September, NBC News toured Seattle’s 911 center to observe a simulated emergency call to an address that was flagged as a swatting risk.

When the call came in, the dispatcher entered the address into her computer and a red box appeared on screen containing the all-caps warning “SWATTING CONCERNS.” The message urged the dispatcher to check the profile for the property, pre-registered by the target via the secure portal, for additional information and contact details.

Even if an address isn’t pre-registered, dispatchers are trained to look for clues that a call might be swatting. One indicator that a call about a shooting or other violent incident might be bogus is if it comes via the department’s non-emergency phone line rather than 911.

Image: 911 Call Center
Seattle Police Department’s 911 centerSean P. Jordan / Seattle Police

If necessary, the dispatcher can then alert responding officers to the potential for swatting. Officers will still typically respond to the call but they will deprioritize it or change their tactics.

“They are showing up to verify everyone is safe, not showing up with the assumption that this is Point Break,” said Whitcomb, referring to an iconic action movie featuring violent bank heists.

Oluo was one of the first test cases. A few weeks before she was swatted, she found out her contact details and social security number had been posted to a website dedicated to this type of harassment. She told NBC News that she called the police departments in Seattle and Shoreline, the suburb where she lives, to warn them that she might be targeted.

When the swatting call came in, emergency dispatchers saw her address was a swatting risk and called ahead, using the number uploaded to the registry, to gauge the legitimacy of the claims made by the 911 caller.

Six officers, four of whom were armed with rifles, still showed up at Oluo’s home at 6 a.m. But because they knew the address was a swatting risk and had spoken to Oluo, they came to the door without their rifles drawn. They asked her son Malcolm some questions and swept the house to verify no one had been killed. It was all over within minutes.

“It would have been a very different response if I hadn’t pre-registered,” said Oluo. “Just knowing the cops are coming makes a huge difference.”

In June this year, another black journalist on the other side of the country found out what the police response can be like without anti-swatting measures. Leonard Pitts, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nationally syndicated columnist who is often critical of right-wing stances, was swatted at his home outside Washington, D.C.

Pitts told NBC News he was roused by a phone call from local police in the early morning hours on June 30. They had received a report he had shot and killed his wife and was threatening to kill police officers.

“At that point my wife sat up in bed and asked what was going on,” he said. “I told her, ‘I’ve killed you.’”

Police officers ordered Pitt to exit his home, kneel, and put his hands on the back of his head. He did so — still wearing his Captain America pajamas — and was handcuffed and escorted to a police car.

The police searched his house and quickly realized his wife was not dead.While the situation was resolved peacefully, it has renewed Pitts’ concern for his personal safety.

“It boiled down to getting me killed by the cops,” he told NBC News. “I’m not exactly Billy Badass with a gun here, but they may not have seen it that way.”

From ‘doxxing’ to ‘swatting’

The swattings of Oluo and Pitts both appear to have stemmed from a site on the dark web dedicated to publishing the personal information of targets — a practice known as “doxxing” — and tracking when they have been successfully swatted.

NBC News is declining to name the website, which is under investigation by multiple agencies including the FBI, NYPD and HSI, to avoid amplifying its message and incite further targets.

The site, reviewed by NBC News, appears to feature the contact details of hundreds of people from all walks of life including gamers, Facebook employees, academics, activists and journalists including Oluo and Pitts. Among the more high-profile individuals listed are former president George W. Bush, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, TV host Jimmy Kimmel, actor Robert De Niro and Gina Haspel, head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The website is accessible via Tor, a specialized browser designed to obscure one’s digital trail that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Information about people on the list often includes home addresses, emails and phone numbers. It also sometimes lists information about relatives. It’s not clear where the information is collected, but some of it is available on commercial databases.

Image: 911 Call Center
A dispatcher at Seattle Police Department’s 911 center.Sean P. Jordan / Seattle Police

In chat-logs from the site reviewed by NBC News, users encourage each other to swat journalists as well as unsuspecting live-streamers, trade tips on disguising their voices and evading police detection, and celebrate when one of their targets is visited by police.

Each time a person has been successfully swatted, the site marks that person’s entry with a distinctive icon — a gun — and links to media coverage about that incident.

Other victims whose swattings have been noted on the site include Edward Carswell, a New York state “Doomsday prepper” known as “Prepper Nurse;” a trans woman YouTuber known as Rosie O’Kelly, who lives in Santa Rosa, California, and a top Facebook executive.

Once a person is listed on the site, they can be targeted repeatedly.

Oluo faced a second threat, possibly by the same person, against one of her public book events. The call, portions of which NBC News has heard, contained racist and violent threats against her.

Again, Seattle police reacted cautiously, sending plain-clothed police officers to the venue to determine whether the threat was real without creating panic. No real threat was detected, but the incident was referred to a federal law enforcement agency.

On top of the 911 threats, Oluo had dozens of food delivery people showing up at her home requesting payment for pizza and Chinese food she hadn’t ordered. Her phone messages were, she said, flooded with unsolicited “dick pics.”

“It was a constant reminder we weren’t safe,” she said.

She has since changed her residence and her phone numbers.

The group behind the doxxing site is small — in the last year, the active chat users have hovered in the tens — but their potential to do harm is outsized. And while trolls and secret harassment campaigns have been a fact of online life nearly as long as the internet been around, this group is operating in a time where online attacks on journalists and activists are common, and encouraged by the highest office.

“One thing you can say about those kinds of bad actors is that they’re fundamentally opportunistic,” said Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University who has written books on the history and evolution of online trolls and harassment. “They’re operating in a climate where: Who’s going to cry when journalists get attacked?”

Phillips explained that the doxxing site and chats were “a more violent articulation” of previous online harassment campaigns against journalists, including one waged early in 2019 in which trolls, and eventually even Donald Trump Jr., barraged Twitter accounts belonging to recently laid-off journalists with the message “Learn to Code,” then denied any connection to the wave of death threats and gore that accompanied many of the messages. “It’s precisely the kind of climate where attacks against journalists are not going to elicit very much sympathy by a significant percentage of the population.”

Despite her ordeal, Oluo remains undeterred in her activism and writing.

“I’ll acclimate to this level of terrorism because that’s what you do when you do this work,” she said.

Pitts agreed.

“This is par for the course, especially in a political environment as toxic as we are living in now,” he said.

‘A serious crime’

While swatting has been a known scourge for years, it is notoriously difficult to investigate, charge, and prosecute at either the local or federal level.

In most states, it is a misdemeanor to make a false 911 call. At the federal level, there is currently no specific anti-swatting statute, although one was first proposed back in 2015. Officials have used other related laws to prosecute swatting suspects successfully, including obstruction of justice, access device fraud, interstate threats or extortion, computer misuse, and the malicious conveying of false information.

In the Wichita case, perpetrator Tyler Barriss ultimately pleaded guilty to dozens of federal charges, ranging from “conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive device” to “threats to injure in interstate commerce.” He was sentenced to 20 years in jail in March this year.

Kevin Kolbye, who worked on numerous swatting cases during his nearly three decades as an FBI special agent, has estimated that swatting incidents have risen from 400 in 2011 to more than 1,000 nationwide in 2019. But he says it’s difficult to know the true count because swatting isn’t a category that is reported and recorded in the FBI’s database of crime statistics.

Image: Cheif Best swearing-in
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.Chris Mobley / Seattle Police

“Most of that swatting is called a ‘false police report’ or could be a ‘terroristic threat,” said Kolbye, who is now the assistant chief of police for Arlington, Texas. “A lot of those aren’t data that’s grouped together where we have a real national focus.”

The Seattle Police Department hopes to change that and has spent the last few months trying to define and quantify the problem so it can measure the success of mitigation efforts.

The Swatting Mitigation Advisory Committee combed through two years of records looking for hoax bomb threats or fake reports of shootings that led to a police response. Its analysis found that SPD received 63 swatting calls, which required 42 hours of officers’ time.

To more easily capture this data in the future, the committee and police force are pushing to create a standardized definition of swatting that can be incorporated into the software it uses to log crimes. They are also inviting other major cities to adopt their definition and prevention measures.

“Without numbers, swatting incidents are being treated like one-off crimes instead of a concerted effort to silence political speech. It’s being done nationally and internationally. We can’t have individual police departments working on it,” said Oluo.

The ultimate goal is to get congress to make swatting a federal offense.

“If we can speak a common language, we can hopefully press lawmakers to have a federal definition and have swatting become a set crime with set penalties,” Whitcomb said.

“It’s not a hoax. It’s not a prank. It’s a serious crime that can have extremely detrimental effects,” added Best.