The Fairfax County, Virginia Police department has confirmed that a "fraudulent call" targeted a northern Virginia man who was open carrying a firearm inside of a 7/11 convenience store earlier this month.
"We responded to a robbery call, upon arriving we made contact with a man matching the description we received in a 911 call and discovered there was no violation of law," officer Roger Henriquez said. "The man was then released."
"It was a fraudulent call."
The Virginia Citizens Defense League said the incident was a case of "swatting" which could have turned out far worse. "As an organization we've been very concerned this could show up here," VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said. "It's enough to get somebody killed."
"Swatting" is when a person falsely reports that someone else has committed a violent crime in order to initiate a forceful police response.
In this case, Robert Dicken told the VCDL that he entered a 7/11 convenience store while openly carrying a firearm, paid for a cup of coffee, and left without incident. A short time later, he said he was stopped by police.
"As the officer gets out of his car, three other cars show up," Dicken said. After having his gun removed and getting frisked by police, he asked why he was pulled over. One of the officers said "we had a person call from 7-11 and they stated that a white guy on a motorcycle robbed the place," according to Dicken.
Once the officers confirmed that Dicken had committed no crime he was given his gun back and allowed to go. The VCDL does not fault how the police handled the situation. Instead, Van Cleave said they are focused on preventing further calls like this one.
"When malicious intent is there, VCDL will encourage the police to prosecute the offender to the full extent of the law and we will encourage the victim to go after the offender civilly as well," he said. "It will be OUR turn to do some ‘swatting' of our own in court."
Van Cleave said the mental state of the caller in this case was unclear and they haven't yet decided how to move forward. They have obtained a recording of the 911 call which contains the false report and shared it with their membership, which Van Cleave described as "very upset" about the incident.
Officer Henriquez said the call is "still under investigation." No charges have been filed at this time.
"I'm getting kind of angry now," Dicken said. "I've heard of anti-gun people saying that they will call the police if they see an open carrier and make up some story to get the police to respond in a forceful manner."
"Wow, I could have been killed!"