Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was targeted in an incident

Republican presidential candidate former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley delivers remarks during her primary night rally at the Grappone Conference Center on January 23, 2024 in Concord, New Hampshire.

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Authorities responded to a fake emergency at Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s South Carolina home last month after a man said he shot a woman and threatened to harm himself at her home, according to officials. city ​​documents obtained by Reuters.

The previously unreported “smashing” incident is part of a wave of violent threats, bomb scares and other acts of intimidation against government officials, members of the judiciary and election administrators since the 2020 election that have alarmed law enforcement officials. order ahead of this year’s US presidential contest.

The swatting cases have surged over the past two months, targeting both allies and rivals of former President Donald Trump as he campaigns to return to the White House. The targets include figures who have publicly opposed Trump, such as Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, a Democrat who barred him from his state’s primary election. Judges and at least one prosecutor who handle cases against Trump were targeted. But Trump supporters, such as U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, have also faced attempts to squash them.

The hoax against Haley, who is challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, occurred Dec. 30 in the town of Kiawah Island, an affluent gated community of about 2,000 people.

Haley’s campaign declined to comment.

An unknown person called 911 and “stated that he shot his girlfriend and threatened to harm himself while at Nikki Haley’s residence,” Kiawah Island Public Safety Director Craig Harris said. to city officials on Dec. 30, according to an email to Reuters. obtained in a records request for threats to Haley’s home. “It was decided it was a hoax…Nikki Haley is not on the island and her son is with her.”

Swatting is the filing of false police reports to trigger a potentially dangerous response from officers. Law enforcement experts see it as a form of intimidation or harassment that is increasingly being used to target political figures and officials involved in civil and criminal cases against Trump.

In the email, Harris said he was in contact with the South Carolina State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the head of Haley’s security team. “All involved are investigating this incident,” she wrote. The email did not mention a suspect or potential motive. In a separate email obtained by Reuters, an FBI official in South Carolina told Harris and other law enforcement officials that federal agents were monitoring the hoax call and intended to launch a “threat assessment ” on the matter.

Harris, the FBI and state police had no immediate comment on the incident. Law enforcement has not publicly identified a suspect in the Haley case or other high-profile swatting cases.

Haley and her husband purchased the $2.4 million Kiawah Island residence in October 2019, local real estate records indicate.

Trump, famous for his incendiary rhetoric, has expressed anger toward Haley in recent weeks. She lost the first two Republican nomination races, in Iowa and New Hampshire, but she refused to drop out of the race. Haley stepped up her criticism of Trump, suggesting he is too old to be president again and calling him “totally distraught.”

Reuters has documented at least 27 incidents of swatting at politicians, prosecutors, election officials and judges since November 2023, ranging from Republican state officials in Georgia to this month’s hoaxes targeting Democrat Joe Biden’s residence in the White House.

Some of the calls have striking similarities. In two cases in which Reuters reviewed 911 recordings of hoax calls, a person who identified himself as “Jamal” called police to say he had killed his wife.

One such incident targeted Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s Florida home on Dec. 27, weeks after he endorsed Trump, according to Naples Police Department records. “I caught my wife in bed with another guy, so I took my AR-15 and shot her in the head three times,” the caller said, referring to a popular semi-automatic rifle. Officers checked Scott’s home and concluded the call was a hoax. Scott was not home at the time of the call.

“Jamal’s voice appeared to be computer-generated/artificial,” a Naples Police Department official wrote in the incident report.

According to an incident report from the Roswell Police Department, a caller identifying himself as “Jamal” also targeted Georgia Republican Senator John Albers on December 26. In that case, the caller said he shot his wife and demanded $10,000 or he would shoot himself too. In both cases, the callers were men and spoke with a similar accent, according to an analysis of audio recordings by Reuters.

A Jan. 7 call to Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, a strong Trump supporter, also had some similarities. The caller told police he was calling from the official’s address in the state capital, said he had shot his wife and added that he was “about to kill himself and hung up on the operator,” according to a Jefferson City Police Department incident report. . Ashcroft, his wife and his children were home at the time, according to a statement from the Missouri Secretary of State.

Scott, Albers and Ashcroft did not respond to requests for comment.

Gabriel Sterling, a senior official in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, said that when someone called 911 on Jan. 11 to falsely report a shooting at his home on the outskirts of Atlanta, 14 police cars, a fire trucks and an ambulance rushed to his house. “Now I lock my doors every night,” said Sterling, a Republican who faced a torrent of threats for speaking out against Trump’s false claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election. “This is the reality I live in now.” , he said in an interview.

The judges in the Trump case are in the crosshairs

Similar intimidation tactics have been aimed in recent weeks at judges and prosecutors involved in cases against Trump.

In the early morning hours of January 11, police in Nassau County, New York, received a report of a bomb at the home of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the civil fraud trial of Trump and his family’s real estate holdings. Business. According to the Nassau County Police Department, police officers, including the bomb squad, were dispatched to the judge’s home in the upscale Long Island suburb of Great Neck at 5:30 a.m.

But no explosive device was found and the call was deemed false. A spokesperson for the New York court system declined to comment on the incident.

Just days earlier, police in Washington, D.C., responded to a false report of a shooting at the home of U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is hearing the criminal case accusing Trump of trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Late on the evening of Jan. 7, police were dispatched to the home, where an unidentified woman informed them that she was unharmed and that no one else was home, according to an incident report reviewed by Reuters. The police cleared the house and did not find any explosive devices. The US Marshals Service, which protects federal judges and prosecutors, responded to a request for comment on the incident.

Other security concerns involved fake attacks.

According to news reports and state officials, over a two-day period in early January, bomb threats were sent to state capitals and courthouses in several states, including Minnesota, Arkansas, Maine, Hawaii, Montana and New Hampshire. In Minnesota, state courts received bomb threats via email, but the threats were deemed false and did not halt court proceedings, court officials told Reuters. The FBI said it was investigating the threats.

In a previously released statement about the rise in swatting incidents, the FBI said the people making the fake calls were using tactics such as caller ID spoofing technology “to make it appear as if the emergency call was coming from the phone of the victim”.

The calls “are dangerous to first responders and victims,” ​​often involving false reports of hostages taken or bombs about to explode, the FBI said. “The community is put in danger as emergency responders rush to the scene, taking them away from actual emergencies, and officers are put in danger as unsuspecting residents may attempt to defend themselves.”

The recent swatting incidents follow a wave of violent threats against US election workers following the 2020 election, inspired by Trump’s false claims about a stolen election. Reuters documented more than 1,000 intimidating messages from the 2020 through 2021 elections in a series of stories chronicling the fear campaign against election administrators in more than a dozen battleground states. A report released Thursday by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice said the intimidation continued into last year. In its survey of state lawmakers completed in October 2023, 43% reported being threatened in the past three years.

According to a Reuters investigation last year, the wave of crushing coincides with the most sustained wave of political violence in the United States since the 1970s. That report documented at least 232 acts of politically motivated violence since Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. The events ranged from riots to brawls at political rallies to beatings and murders.

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