Hoax gets local man in trouble with police

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Prank call leads to officials responding to what they believed to be a shooting

By Calen McKinney

It all started with a phone call.

Jerry Hayden was at his Shofner Road home on June 25 when the phone rang. It was a dispatcher from the Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911 Center who wanted to know what was going on inside his home.

"I said, 'There's not a thing going on.'"

Hayden said the dispatcher said there were Taylor County Sheriff's deputies outside his home and he needed to walk outside.

Doing as he told, Hayden walked out his front door, with the phone to his ear. He was then ordered to sit the phone down and walk away from his home.

As he walked toward the deputies, Hayden was ordered to get on the ground. As he moved, deputies and Campbellsville Police officers held him down.

Hayden said guns were aimed at him the entire time.

After giving the officers permission to go inside his home, he said they pointed a gun toward Hayden's son, who is 13. The teenager walked outside with his hands up.

But after learning there was nothing illegal happening at the home, the officers removed the handcuffs and let Hayden go.

"We just talked about what was going on," Hayden said.

Hayden said he was told police had received a phone call saying he had shot his wife and son. Hayden said he isn't married.

He said the caller told police he had shot his son and locked him a bathroom. His son was reportedly bleeding badly.

"So the law thinks this was all going on," Hayden said.

Hayden said he was told that when the emergency call was dispatched, gunfire could be heard in the background, which likely made officers believe the situation was real and Hayden really had shot someone. But that wasn't the case.

However, Taylor County Sheriff Allen Newton said a shooting was reported to his deputies and they had to respond.

"We got a 911 call and responded to it," he said. "Pretty serious, pretty graphic call."

And when deputies receive a serious call like that one, Newton said, they treat it that way.

"My officers follow the protocol," he said.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette said his officers responded to the scene to help deputies contain the situation, which was reported to be grave.

"There were casualties," he said. "Our officers only went because of the severity of it to back up the sheriff's office."

After learning the call was a hoax, Hazlette said, the entire situation changed.

"It changed the complexity of it," he said. "We expected to find bodies."

Newton said his deputies have learned the emergency report came from a call service used by those who are hearing impaired or need other help communicating.

After further investigation into the call, Newton said, deputies have learned the call was placed through an Xbox gaming system.

He said the call has been traced to Canada, and an investigation into exactly where it came from is continuing.

Canada, Newton said, is a bit outside his office's jurisdiction.

"What are we gonna do with somebody in Canada?" he said.

Hazlette said his officers are also looking into the situation.

"We would like to identify who is responsible for this and charge them," he said.

He said those who made the call likely think the situation was just a joke.

"If you're the one receiving the call, there's nothing funny about it. I'm as sorry as I can be about it."

Hayden said people can play games together via Xbox and other game systems through online programs. And if they get mad at one another, he said, they can lock others out of the game. That has happened to his son, Hayden said, and his family lost the power to its phone system for a while.

Newton and Hazlette said they are both sorry the incident happened to Hayden.

"I mean, I hate it. We told him we are sorry," Newton said.

Had his deputies been suspicious of the call and not responded to Hayden's home, Newton said, the situation could have been an actual emergency.

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," he said.

"I'd sure rather apologize for this than try and explain why we didn't respond."

Newton said his officers will always respond to situations like the one that was reportedly happening at Hayden's home. When responding to a reported shooting, he said, officers are already on edge.

"An officer going into a house like that, he's a target," Newton said.

"My department did, thank God, everything to protocol," he said. "The officers responding don't appreciate it anymore than [Hayden] did."

Hazlette said technology provides many great resources, but also ways for people with sinister intentions to create problems. He said a game was played during the call so dispatchers would hear shooting and believe the situation was real.

"They can create the sound effects to make it sound like the real thing," he said. "Till you’re there, you don't know any different."

He said his officers handled the situation as they are supposed to.

"They responded the way they’re trained," he said. "We were dispatched to that scene in an attempt to try to protect life and property."

Hayden said he understands that law enforcement must investigate the reports they receive. However, he said, he believes some of the officers used excessive force when responding to his home.

"I just think they went too extensive with it," he said.

Hayden said he received bruises and other injuries in the incident and has since received treatment. He said he hasn't decided if he will file a complaint about the incident.

"I understand they've got a job to do," he said. "They've got to figure another way to do it."

Hayden said he wants people to know what happened to his family and that it can happen to other people - even if they don't have a game system. All hackers need, he said, is a person's phone number and address.

"It could happen to you or anybody."

Newton said incidents like the one at Hayden's home haven't only happened in Taylor County. He said he has been told similar incidents have happened in other states, too.

"It's not just isolated to this area," he said. "Somebody in this county just happened to be the victim this time."