Gallery: Swatting incident at Sen. Ted Lieu's home

South Bay state Sen. Ted Lieu, the author of a bill to increase penalties for those who engage in "swatting," became a victim himself Friday when someone posing as him falsely reported to police that he had shot his wife in their Torrance home.

The call prompted a large response from police, who surrounded his south Torrance house with guns drawn. Lieu said his wife, Betty, was home sick at the time, but he was at a meeting in Orange County. Their children were at school.

Sen. Ted Lieu
Sen. Ted Lieu

"This incident brings up emotions you never want to experience," Lieu said. "I need to decompress. "

Torrance police received a call from an operator who monitors text typing calls shortly after 1 p.m. The operator said someone purporting to be Lieu claimed he had just shot his wife, Torrance police Lt. Devin Chase said.

About a dozen Torrance police officers raced toward Lieu's south Torrance house while police officials tried to call the state lawmaker. Lieu said he was talking to someone when his cellphone began ringing. He did not immediately respond until he noticed who was calling.

"I got extremely concerned," he said. "I could tell they were Torrance police officials. It freaked me out. "


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When he returned the call, "They said you didn't just shoot your wife?" Lieu said.

"My first thought was, 'Well, did someone else shoot my wife?' " Lieu said. "I got quite scared. Then, my second thought was, because I am trying to do swatting legislation, this could be a swatting call. "

Lieu gave police his wife's phone number and tried to reach her himself. But she did not answer. Lieu called a neighbor, who said the street was blocked by the police.

In the meantime, police officers - some carrying assault rifles - called Betty Lieu and asked her to come outside with her hands up. They searched the house to make sure it was safe. Lieu said he felt relief, and then anger. He arrived home about 40 minutes after the initial call.

He described the Torrance police officers who dealt with him and his wife as "extremely professional," but said "it was quite scary for my wife." Firefighters and paramedics also responded.

Lieu said he believes he was targeted because of his legislation.

"I'm now more determined than ever to put in stronger deterrents to swatting," the senator said.

In recent months, swatting - named because police SWAT officers often are called out - has become more prevalent in Southern California, primarily at the homes of celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Tom Cruise, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Cruise, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Chris Brown.

In some of the latest incidents, police responded when someone said shots were fired at Timberlake's Hollywood Hills home, and when a caller said someone was shot inside singer Rihanna's Pacific Palisades house.

Lieu, whose district includes Pacific Palisades, Beverly Hills and portions of Hollywood, recently authored a measure that would require anyone convicted of making false police reports to pay for the costs of the law enforcement response. The first hearing on the measure was held two weeks ago.

"Just today you could tell this wasn't inexpensive," Lieu said. "You had a lot of first responders here. In addition, if something else happened, it's a drain on police and fire resources for no good reason. "

Torrance police Lt. Devin Chase, the watch commander on duty at the time of the call, said the false reports pull officers away from their regular duties and pose dangers for residents and safety concerns for officers.

"There's always the possibility there could be a tragic accident because our officers are responding to what is being reported as a murder," Chase said. "If someone were to come out of the residence with a gun - just because they are an armed citizen who hears a noise and decides to check - it could end tragically.