OAK HARBOR, Wash. — Several agencies including SWAT officers surrounded the Whidbey Island home of a third-party presidential candidate Friday night after someone called 911 pretending to have stabbed his girlfriend and held his nieces hostage.
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The hoax caused the Island County Sheriff’s Office to send automated calls to more than 150 households in the Rolling Hills neighborhood of Oak Harbor, telling them to stay inside because of an active shooter situation.
Sheriff Mark Brown said the Naval Air Station even held some employees on base who had intended to head toward that area.
In the 911 call, a man can be heard saying, “I just stabbed my girlfriend … I think she’s dead. I have nieces tied up in the bathroom right now. I’m not sure I’m going to kill our nieces.”
The dispatcher then asked for an address, and the caller who identified himself as “David,” went on to give the address of David Sponheim, a man running for president with America’s Third Party.
Brown said they had to assume the worst and send out resources from their own department, Oak Harbor police, and their local fire district.
“It’s evil in the sense that it’s a sick joke. It’s a sick hoax that people are trying to – they think it’s funny,” Brown said.
Sponheim said someone had called police in June with a similar threat, to harm himself or others.
When deputies determined that to be a hoax, Sponheim said he had given them his phone number. Yet the sheriff said they must not have stored it in their system.
At about 6:30 p.m., an undersheriff had to log on to Sponheim’s live video chat with supporters, to ask Sponheim’s partner to call police.
“I went outside, and I immediately saw a sting operation in my neighborhood,” Sponheim said.
He told KIRO 7 how officers on bullhorns asked his partner to get down on the ground, and asked him to do the same. They then handcuffed him.
Sponheim said he remained calm and let the deputies check his house to see that no one was in any danger.
When asked why someone might target the presidential candidate, he said, “I’m automatically on a list of people that don’t like me, because I’m challenging the existing status quo of our country.”
Sponheim had previously sparked controversy for posting videos online of him in blackface, impersonating Barack Obama. But he said he does not feel these pranks are racially motivated.
“It’s ironic people don’t understand this country was founded and predicated on freedom of speech, and my right to impersonate the president was paramount,” he said.
Investigators are now trying to figure out whether the most recent call matches the one made in June.
Sponheim said in 2010 he had also alerted deputies to a suspicious package left at his home.