The call came in late Saturday to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. The man on the line said he shot his wife with an AR-15 rifle in their Minnetonka home. She was dead, and the gun was on the table.
"He said he wants to shoot the police also," the dispatcher relayed to officers.
The law enforcement response to the dead-end block of single-family houses was carried out with methodical urgency. A command post was quickly set up. Police sealed off several blocks. Officers crept toward the dark house that backs up to thick woods from all sides. Edina had an armored vehicle on the way.
Forty minutes later, law enforcement stood down. All of it — the report of a murderer in the home and a man inside wanting to shoot officers — was made up. In the home, a husband and wife slept as officers from at least six agencies were poised outside.
The nearly two dozen officers had been unwitting participants in a "swatting," the not-at-all-humorous prank of calling in a dangerous crime or situation in hopes of initiating an overwhelming police response. The baffled couple in their 60s say they have no idea why they were targeted.
"My heart was pounding, and I feared for my life," the woman said, recounting when they awoke to a phone call from police, then were told to exit the house amid the glare of high-intensity police lights and officers' weapons pointed at them.
"The fate of [Justine] Ruszczyk was present in my mind as I walked barefoot across the lawn," she said, referring to the woman shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer two years ago.
The woman, who asked that her identity and specifics about the home's location not be published, said police told her and her husband that someone reported a killing in the house and a desire to shoot officers.
"They asked us if we knew what swatting was," the woman said. She said no — until now.
Motives for such a hoax range from the thrill of prompting a full-blown response to scaring someone inside as police show up poised to use all necessary force.
Some have pulled off the stunt while connected live with a video-game player in the targeted home, allowing the perpetrator to witness amped-up police action in real time.
"These types of pranks are a recipe for tragedy," said Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. "We've seen people in other states lose their lives. … It's a ridiculous and reckless stunt that needs to stop."
Skoogman said that any response by police to a homicide or a hostage being held makes for an "incredibly high-stress situation for cops."
"Officers are on edge," he said. "Anyone and everyone they encounter will be considered a suspect, and in many cases a potentially deadly threat. They will do whatever they can to save lives. But as we have seen, these situations can escalate quickly and have ended tragically."
Swatting has popped up in Minnesota and all around the country in hundreds of incidents annually with consequences that range from denting agency budgets, to distracting officers from other calls, to injuries and even death.
The FBI recognized swatting as an emerging threat as early as 2008, noting it had become commonplace among gamers.
In 2015, a 19-year-old man pleaded guilty to reporting to police in southwestern Minnesota that he had shot his father, and had taken him and his brother hostage while threatening bombings and shootings at schools in Marshall. His threats, which were made from Texas, spanned several months and included locations in Ohio and Massachusetts.
Three months ago, a 26-year-old California man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online gamers over a $1.50 bet.
And one day after the Minnetonka hoax, police outside Baltimore went to the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard G. Pitts Jr. based on a prank about a killing in his home. Pitts was ordered to his knees and handcuffed, he told the Miami Herald.
Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom said Monday these pranks "are a disruption in the neighborhood, create fear and are unnecessary, but we have to respond," even though his and other law enforcement agencies are increasingly aware that swatting incidents seem to be on the rise.
Boerboom offered virtually no hope of catching whoever called in the hoax Saturday to Hennepin County's nonemergency number. He said the call came from a connection through the internet on a computer, making it "almost impossible to trace. … We have not had good luck in the past."
Police Department analysts are still trying to backtrack their way to a suspect, but in the unlikely event that they do catch one, falsely reporting a crime is only a misdemeanor unless more serious consequences grow out of the hoax.
"You would think it would be much more severe," the chief said.
Skoogman of the Police Chiefs Association said there is a legislative effort to specifically make swatting a federal crime, rather than trying to apply a more general charge such as making a deadly threat.
"That's a good step," he said. "This type of prank has to stop before more people lose their lives."