Police converged on a Waukegan apartment earlier this week after a chilling 911 call was made by a man claiming he had stabbed a woman, bound her and was holding her hostage with a shotgun, according to police.
On Tuesday morning, police closed down the area around the 1700 block of Sunset Avenue before officers armed with AR-15 rifles forced their way inside, Waukegan Police Chief Wayne Walles said. it turned out the 911 call was a false report, summoning police to the apartment of a registered sex offender.
"This is similar to what they call 'swatting,'" said Walles, who likened the call to a prank. "But we're not sure what this was and that's why we are investigating."
Authorities called the SWAT team, but officers at the scene were sent into the apartment instead, equipped with their street rifles, Walles said
The 911 call was placed at 11:13 a.m., police said, and the male caller told a dispatcher he had his girlfriend tied up in the apartment. He also said he had stabbed her twice and claimed that he had a shotgun, according to Waukegan Police Lt. Edward Fitzgerald.
An officer spoke to the man for several minutes before he hung up. The 911 dispatcher could not re-establish contact.
"Fearing for the safety of the alleged victim, officers made forced entry to the apartment to rescue the victim," Fitzgerald said. Officers discovered there was no victim upon entering the apartment.
There were two men inside the apartment, including David McMurray, 54. From his third-floor apartment window, he was able to see the officers armed with rifles and police cars blocking Sunset Avenue, McMurray said.
"I stepped outside onto the front porch and a cop with (a rifle) pointed at me, was coming up the stairs and he told me to get back into my home," he said.
McMurray said he locked the door behind him and turned on his TV to see if a news broadcast had any information about the situation. His roommate, Travis Weatherhead, 30, was sleeping after working a night shift.
Minutes later, police used a battering ram to break open their front door and a back bedroom window to gain entry, the roommates said.
"Next thing I know officers are pointing rifles at me in bed," Weatherhead said. "They were yelling 'hands where I can see them.'" Officers quickly determined there was no hostage or criminal activity.
Downstairs neighbors Clarence Mays and Frederick Coffey, both 24, said they watched the commotion and videotaped some of it.
"It was crazy sick," Coffey said. "We heard a lot of sirens and looked out the window. Police told us to stay inside.
"It got real. I got nervous because of my kid," he added, referring to his 4-year-old son.
Mays likened the situation to the video game "Call of Duty," but "in real life."
"There was a bunch of guns pointed at the building," Mays said.
Both McMurray and Weatherhead left with police and returned a few hours later.
McMurray, who was wearing a T-shirt with a Superman logo on the front, said he was taking the situation in stride.
"Someone made a prank call. Someone has it out for me or Travis," he said as building management were cleaning up the broken glass, fixing the front door and installing plywood where the bedroom window was broken out.
McMurray said police played them the 911 call to see if they recognized the voice. The caller used two names that were familiar to them, McMurray said.
"It could be that I'm a sex offender, to give me grief," said McMurray, explaining that he is registered as a sex offender and is on probation for a child pornography charge.
"I'm just going to let it roll over my shoulders," he said as he walked into his bedroom where glass littered the carpet. "What a mess I have to clean up and I'm a barefoot kind of guy.
"Sex offenders have this happen, I'm not going to let them win," McMurray added. "I'm not angry, not upset. I'm just glad no one got hurt." by Frank S. Abderholden