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Crime & Justice

Police arrest pre-teen for police celebrity hoax calls, leading officers to homes of Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher

Police and SWAT team members respond to a call of a shooting at the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wis.  Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.
Police and SWAT team members respond to a call of a shooting at the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wis. Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.
Tom Lynn/AP

Police have arrested a juvenile they say is responsible for making prank calls that reported violence at the homes of Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher and led officers to respond in force to the stars' homes.

The suspect was arrested Dec. 10 and is no longer in custody. He's a pre-teen, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith told KPCC, and was arrested at his home in Southern California. Police don't want to release details because they don't want to compromise other ongoing investigations, Smith said.

Prosecutors were reviewing a possible case against the person, who police say may be responsible for multiple hoax calls intended to provoke large police responses.

The practice has been dubbed "swatting" because the calls are intended to get multiple officers, including specialized SWAT teams, sent to a home.

"The swatting practice is extremely dangerous and places first responders and citizens in harm's way," police said in a news release. It doesn't happen that often, Smith said, but endangers those on the road due to police rushing to the scene, and also endangers those at the scenes they're called to.

"Our officers go out there, guns drawn, expecting a robbery in progress ... with armed suspects," Smith said. "It's just terribly dangerous for everybody. It's not funny and it pulls our officers from where they should be doing other police work."

Police said the person reported multiple people had been shot at Kutcher's home on Oct.3 and reported shots fired at Bieber's home a week later. The celebrities were not home at the time, and officers determined that no one was injured.

The fake distress calls were made through an electronic system that lets the deaf or hard of hearing send messages directly to police.

"Those programs allow people to type messages in, and send those directly to the police department. That  method was used to get police to roll directly to these locations ... and our officers were able to determine that he’s the one who ended up doing it," Smith said.

The person is suspected of being involved in other "swatting" incidents, but police did not say whether they involved celebrities. Similar hoax calls have been made involving the homes of Miley Cyrus and Simon Cowell, but police don't believe he was responsible for the Miley Cyrus incident, Smith said.

Police plan to submit a request to the city attorney for the city to get reimbursed for police costs, including helicopters, officers and supervisors.

"It's a huge waste of our resources, it's dangerous for everybody involved — and it's not really funny," Smith said.

Police are pursuing false police report charges, Smith said, but there's been speculation that the suspect could even face assault with a deadly weapon charges due to calling officers out, who arrived with guns drawn.

In a news release, police said multiple agencies including the FBI and Long Beach Police Department were involved in the investigation. Long Beach detectives who investigate cybercrimes were consulted and the agency was not involved in the arrest.