British video gamer sentenced for 'swatting' stunt which led to US shooting

Robert Walker-McDaid was sentenced at Warwick crown court on Friday (CPS)
Robert Walker-McDaid was sentenced at Warwick crown court on Friday (CPS)

A British video gamer has been sentenced in a landmark ‘swatting’ prosecution, after he orchestrated a hoax in the US that led to an innocent man being shot in the face.

Robert Walker-McDaid, 28, phoned a terrorism hotline in Maryland and claimed to have taken hostages while armed with plastic explosives, and said the incident was unfolding at the home of Tyran Dobbs.

He threatened to execute a hostage within 15 minutes unless he received $15,000, prompting Swat teams to descend on 20-year-old Mr Dobbs’ home.

In the ensuing stand-off, the innocent man was shot in the head and chest with plastic bullets, and needed reconstructive facial surgery as a result.

At Warwick crown court on Friday, Walker-McDaid was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for 18 months after he admitted perverting the course of justice.

It was the first criminal prosecution in this country of any offence linked to ‘swatting’.

“Swatting is far more than a crude prank – it is a serious crime which can have devastating consequences,” said Hannah Sidaway, Specialist Prosecutor for CPS West Midlands.

“Walker-McDaid may not have intended to cause such serious harm, but by sowing panic and deceiving law enforcement into responding to a fictitious threat, he left an innocent man with life-changing injuries.

“British-based offenders who hide behind online anonymity to commit serious crimes abroad will not escape justice, and we will continue to work collaboratively with international partners to ensure and perpetrators will face the full force of the law.”

Walker-McDaid hatched the plan in February 2015 over Skype with Maryland resident Zachary Lee, after the pair met online playing video games.

Lee – later jailed for two years for his role - told Walker-McDaid “I have someone I need sw@tted” and shared the victim’s address.

Walker-McDaid replied “il do it when im up” and carried out the plan the following day, posing as Mr Dobbs and claiming to have taken three hostages with several explosive devices.

Swat teams and crisis negotiators were called out to a siege which last over two hours, and culminated in the shooting.

In an investigation after the incident, law enforcement teams traced Walker-McDaid’s Skype account with the username ‘Meowobikiniz’, and linked it to his home in Coventry.

A bid to extradite Walker-McDaid to the US to face charges was unsuccessful, but criminal charges in the UK were then considered.

When questioned, the CPS said Walker-McDaid admitting making the call but claimed he had been pressurised into it.

He was sentenced on Friday to 200 hours of community service, and will also pay £1,000 compensation to Mr Dobbs.