Teen Pleads Guilty After Grandfather Dies in 'Swatting'

Mark Herring, 60, was being pressured to give up his Twitter handle
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2021 2:17 PM CDT
Fight Over Twitter Handle Leaves Grandfather Dead
File image of the Twitter logo.   (AP Photo, File)

A teenager wanted a Twitter handle, and now a 60-year-old grandfather is dead. Federal prosecutors say Shane Sonderman pressured Mark Herring to give up @Tennessee, which Herring had been using since 2008. Herring’s family say they were harassed for hours with messages, unasked-for pizza deliveries, and false reports of fires, the Washington Post reports. When Herring didn’t give in to the intimidation, things escalated—and Herring was “swatted.” Sonderman, now 18 but a minor at the time of Herring’s death, has pleaded to conspiracy. The conspiracy involved posting Herring’s contact information online, and a British teen using it to falsely report that a woman had been murdered at Herring’s house.

“Swatting” is illegally reporting fake emergencies to get armed teams of police to go to a house. In this case, it was lethal, Herring’s daughter Corinna Herring Fitch told NBC. “I believe he was scared to death,” she said. When police showed up at Herring’s house in response to the unnamed British minor’s call, Herring came out with a gun. He threw it away when he saw the police were there, and then fell down, unresponsive. He had a massive heart attack and died. Police say Sonderman and his co-conspirators had harassed other social media users with cool handles, the New York Times reports. Sonderman has been sentenced to five years in prison. (Read more weird crimes stories.)

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