A Grandfather Died in 'Swatting' Over His Twitter Handle, Officials Say - Slashdot


Mark Herring had a fatal heart attack after the police swarmed his house after a fake emergency call. A Tennessee man was sentenced to five years in prison in connection with the episode. From a report: Mark Herring was at home in Bethpage, Tenn., one night in April 2020 when the police swarmed his house. Someone with a British accent had called emergency services in Sumner County and reported having shot a woman in the back of the head at Mr. Herring's address. The caller had threatened to set off pipe bombs at the front and back doors if officers came, according to federal court records. When the police arrived, they drew their guns and told Mr. Herring, a 60-year-old computer programmer and grandfather of six, to come out and keep his hands visible. As he walked out, he lost his balance and fell. He was pronounced dead that same night at a nearby hospital. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to court records. Mr. Herring had been a victim of "swatting," the act of reporting a fake crime in order to provoke a heavily armed response from the police. The caller was a minor living in the United Kingdom, according to federal prosecutors. But the caller knew Mr. Herring's address because Shane Sonderman, 20, of Lauderdale County, Tenn., had posted the information online, prosecutors said. On Wednesday, Mr. Sonderman was sentenced to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy. "The defendant was part of a chain of events," federal prosecutors said in court documents. The police "arrived prepared to take on a life and death situation," prosecutors said. "Mr. Herring died of a heart attack at gunpoint." Mr. Sonderman's lawyer, Bryan R. Huffman, said he had argued for a lesser sentence but believed five years "was fair in light of Shane's culpability."

"Mr. Sonderman has expressed his remorse on multiple occasions. He has expressed his regret regarding Mr. Herring's death," Mr. Huffman said in an email on Saturday. "Mr. Sonderman's family had also expressed their remorse. There are many families affected by Shane's actions, including his own family." Mr. Herring was targeted because he refused to sell his Twitter handle, @Tennessee, according to his family and prosecutors. Smart, blunt and plain-spoken, Mr. Herring had loved computers since he was a teenager and joined Twitter in March 2007, less than a year after it started, his family said. He knew people wanted his handle, which he chose because of his love for the state, where he had been born and raised, and had rebuffed offers of $3,000 to $4,000 to sell it, his daughter Corinna Fitch, 37, said in an interview.