California Man Charged In Indictment Alleging Pattern of ‘Swatting’ Calls Threatening Schools Including Sandy Hook

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Eduardo Vicente Pelayo Rodriguez, 31, of Riverside, Calif., has been arrested on an 18-count indictment alleging he placed “swatting calls” threatening to commit mass shootings at several schools in the Inland Empire and Sandy Hook, and to bomb Nashville International Airport on behalf of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the Justice Department announced this week.

He was charged on May 22 with one count of stalking, seven counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce, seven counts of engaging in hoaxes, and three counts of transmitting threats or false information regarding fire and explosives.

He was arrested May 21 and his arraignment was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.

“Swatting” refers to falsely reporting in the name of another person that an emergency is in progress or about to occur, with the intent to result in emergency services or law enforcement responding to that other person’s location or investigating them.

According to the indictment that a federal grand jury returned on May 16 and unsealed May 22, Rodriguez in January and February 2023 used a Voice over Internal Protocol (VoIP) service to place more than a dozen calls impersonating the victim.

Initially, Rodriguez called a suicide prevention center and a veterans crisis hotline, claimed to be the victim, and said that he was contemplating committing suicide or killing others.

Rodriguez allegedly then called school staff at seven different schools — in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as Sandy Hook Elementary School — and threatened to commit either a mass shooting or bombing at the schools. Finally, Rodriguez allegedly called Nashville International Airport in Tennessee, said he had planted a bomb on a plane and in the airport, and said, “this is for ISIS,” and “one hour, boom.”

Law enforcement responded to these phone calls and determined they were fake.

United States Attorney Martin Estrada said the crimes alleged against Rodriguez “are highly troubling.”

“The indictment alleges that the defendant placed calls to schools, airports, and other locations that were designed to cause maximum fear and trigger an emergency response. ‘Swatting’ is a serious crime that can cause great trauma and risk loss of life, so it is important that we hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Krysti Hawkins, the acting assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said Rodriguez “is alleged to have conducted swatting attacks, to include the callous targeting of an open wound at Sandy Hook, without regard for the potential consequences of this insidious type of hoax. “Perpetrators of swatting hoaxes should understand that the FBI and our local partners take these threats seriously and that the penalties — if convicted — are considerable.”

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

If convicted of the charges, Rodriguez would face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison on the stalking count, five years on each of the threats counts, five years on each of the hoax counts, and 10 years on each of the counts relating to fire and explosives.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating this matter. Riverside Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Newtown Police Department, and Nashville Airport Authority provided substantial assistance.

Assistant United States Attorney Jenna W. Long of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section is prosecuting this case.

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