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Ashland police found no threat from false hostage tip

An armed robbery in progress at Gold & Gems Fine Jewelry in downtown Ashland was called in to 9-1-1 Wednesday around 10:55 p.m., but it was discovered to be a false tip, according to Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara.

Four Ashland police officers, one Phoenix officer and Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene and cleared the building. No threat was found.

A female who gave the report over the phone said she was being held at gunpoint by 10 men and someone might have been shot, O’Meara said.

“It started to fall apart right at the beginning,” O’Meara said of the 9-1-1 call. “The officers did not respond with their sirens on, but the female on the phone said that she could hear sirens responding to her location.”

Witnesses nearby said they did not see or hear anything unusual.

Officers pinged the phone used for the call and it returned as a server in Switzerland, indicating the caller used a technology to remain anonymous, O’Meara said.

In recent years, false reports have come in describing hazardous situations that are guaranteed to generate a large law enforcement presence at a particular location — what began as a revenge tactic for feuding video-gamers, he said.

"When people first started doing this, SWAT teams would show up, so this practice of calling in fake, high-risk police calls to get a police response became known as ‘swatting,’“ O’Meara said.

Swatting is typically targeted at an individual, not a business that’s closed for the night, he said. Police are still investigating the call.

If identified, the caller faces potential misdemeanor charges for misuse of 9-1-1 and giving a false police report.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497.