WESTFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – There was an incident in Westfield last night involving an alleged armed suspect. For a few tense hours the green at Park Square was locked down as police searched the area. But, police found out it was a fake call and there was no threat to the public.
The Westfield community is on edge today following an incident late Friday night. The Westfield police received a 911 call of a suspect claiming to have a rifle and an explosive device. The call prompted a large police presence in downtown Westfield.
Yev Pyshnyak of Westfield told 22News about how he felt being close to the incident, “It’s a little strange you know? I was driving by and was a little confused about it, then you start hearing it and you are so close to them. It’s scary.”
The area was in lock down as police searched hours for the alleged suspect. The people nearby who were just enjoying a night out given a call to shelter in place.
One such resident was Cheryl Barnes of Westfield.
“The staff locked the doors, we went into the backroom and turned the lights off,” she said, “Hearing the helicopters, I was like, ‘ok something is definitely going on, maybe I should be a little worried.'”
But no threat to the public was found, and it was determined the call was fake, or a ‘swatting incident.’
‘Swatting’ is a false police tip for an active shooter, bomb or hostage type of situation that calls for top-tier response and equipment. What is known as a S.W.A.T. team, hence the term. Local lawyers say making these fake calls can lead to criminal penalties and fines, but it is also very dangerous.
James B. Winston an Attorney in Northampton said, “They don’t realize that when armed officers go in, something could go wrong. Some of the more horrific cases have been from other parts of the country where innocent people have been killed.”
Police say those responsible will be, “dealt with swiftly.” And in a time where gun violence has plagued the country. Some people are saying they are now more cautious than ever.
“I’m pretty cautious all the time for the past few years. There’s been active shootings all across the country, and a lot of gun violence and you have to be aware of what’s around you,” expressed Patrick Lyman also of Westfield.