A 911 call Sunday night to the Rusk County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center reporting a shooting in Bruce and hostage situation involving a child could have been an elaborate hoax. The situation was also dangerous for the family swept up in the deception.
Dispatchers received a phone call at 9:30 p.m. on, Jan. 27, from a man stating he was in Bruce, and he had just shot his wife and was holding their child hostage. The call traced to the 200 block of Main Street in the village.
Justin and Tiffany Rundle were home, watching TV and trying to get to bed after putting their son to sleep. Soon they noticed people on Facebook were asking if Tiffany was alright.
“They were hearing horrible things that I shot her and was holding my son hostage,” Justin said.
The Rundles called the sheriff office to find out why people were saying these things on social media.
“That is when the entire ordeal started in real time,” Justin said. “I had to exit my house in the freezing cold, being disabled with Parkinson’s.”
“I had to walk with hands up to an armored Humvee in the street where I was handcuffed and detained,” Justin said.
Rundle said law enforcement officers were gentle and never rough throughout the incident.
“[I was] then taken to [the] Rusk County Jail to be interviewed which only took maybe 10 minutes of interview time and they had pretty much, by the time they talked to me, determined it was a hoax and I was the victim,” Justin said.
After an investigation, it was determined that the call was not real, according to city of Ladysmith Police Department records. “The individual that was listed as the suspect was not really the suspect and had no idea what was going on.”
Sheriff’s dispatch records indicate the caller reporting the hoax said he “has a kid tied up in the basement” and he “would [shoot] the child if any law enforcement officer approached the house.”
The caller allegedly told dispatchers he wanted to talk with someone, but officers could not get a phone number.
“He would be looking to see and would [shoot] them,” records state.
The call kept coming in and out, dispatch records indicate.
The Rusk County Sheriff’s Office, Barron/Rusk Emergency Response Team, Ladysmith Police Department and Rusk County Ambulance responded. SWAT teams from Eau Claire and Sawyer counties also were requested, but later canceled after it was learned the call was a hoax.
The call may be an elaborate hoax known as “swatting.” Swatting is false reporting an emergency to public safety by a person for the intent of getting a SWAT team response to a location where no emergency exists. The calling party will often report they are involved or nearby as a witness to a home invasion, active shooter, or hostage situation, attempting to muster the largest response possible. Often, the law enforcement response is substantial, with police confronting the unsuspecting victims at gunpoint, only to learn that there is no real emergency.
Those who attempt to cause a swatting incident use several techniques, including: caller ID spoofing, TTY relay technologies, and social engineering. These actors will often have a reasonable scenario and will sometime include personal information. These actors have various motivations; sometimes it is for “fun” and viewed as a prank to the actor, while other times it is used as retaliation against a real or perceived issue with the victim. Several public figures and celebrities have been the victims of swatting.
These calls come from two sources:
n Direct to the Public Safety Answering Point — calls from spoofed devices with the caller directly providing information to a trained call taker.
n Relayed from a third party — Call from the caller to an untrained person at a relay service such as Telecommunications Relay Service, or even an innocent “Good Samaritan” using social media.
Rusk County Sheriff Jeff Wallace would not confirm it is a swatting incident.
‘We are looking into it,” he said.
While the caller was on the phone with dispatchers during the Bruce incident last weekend, the caller stated he was loading a gun and would run out, according to law enforcement records.
“He stated he had the body and child in the basement,” law enforcement documents state.
A Wisconsin State Patrol trooper reported he was also responding.
The caller allegedly told dispatchers he has a computer he wants law enforcement to look at, including pictures and video.
The caller sounded as if he was listening on mute and unmuting the phone when he wished to speak, according to dispatch records.
At 10:27 p.m., the caller told dispatchers he would come out with his hands up.
The Bruce Fire Department was put on standby.
At 10:45 p.m., an officer reported having one male subject detained at the address. The subject was taken to the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office.
“After investigators interviewed him it was determined he was neither involved nor had any knowledge of the incident,” a sheriff’s press release issued the day after the incident stated.
“All persons reported to be involved were accounted for, and were unharmed,” the release stated.
At 12:23 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 28, an officer reported dropping off the male subject, a little more than 90 minutes after being taken into custody.
The Rusk County Sheriff’s Office is attempting to determine who placed the original call to dispatch.