A Tennessee man lost his life last year after he was "swatted" by people who wanted his Twitter handle.
Mark Herring, 60, registered for a Twitter handle with the name @Tennessee when the social media platform was still in its infancy. According to Newsweek, Herring used the name because he loved his home state and the Tennessee Volunteers, but as Twitter became more popular over the years, demand for the username increased exponentially.
Herring received many offers to sell his Twitter handle, but he always refused. It was not unusual for prospective buyers to get disgruntled at his refusal to sell, but things took a turn for the worse in April last year.
On April 27, several of Herring's relatives, including two of his daughters and his ex-wife, began receiving pizza deliveries that they had not ordered. Multiple orders were placed at their respective addresses, all cash on delivery. The alarmed relatives tried to reach out to Herring, but did not get any response, reports WKRN-TV.
His son-in-law, Gary Hooge, finally managed to contact him through his live-in girlfriend, who told him, "everything is not OK. I'm in the back of a cop car. I got to go."
According to the report, police had received a call from Herring's number claiming that he has killed a woman on the property. Officers responded to the scene, guns drawn, and met Herring on his porch where they demanded that he put his hands up. An unsuspecting Herring had a massive heart attack due to the visit, and lost his life to it.
The family soon found out that two people had recently approached Herring to sell his Twitter handle, and had allegedly begun using intimidation tactics to force him to give in. Police have now discovered that two minors, one from Tennessee and one from the United Kingdom, were responsible for the swatting that led to Herring's death, reports People.
The accused from Tennessee, Shane Sonderman, has since turned 18 and is being charged as an adult. He pleaded guilty at the Western Tennessee District Court in March to wire fraud/conspiracy; interstate communication of threats; false information and hoaxes; and conspiracy. The charging documents revealed that he had six other victims across the country, but only Herring died.
Sonderman's British co-conspirator is still a minor and will not be extradited to the United States.