A fake emergency call to police resulted in officers responding Friday night to the home of Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows just a day after she removed former President Donald Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot under the Constitution’s insurrection clause.
She becomes the latest elected politician to become a target of swatting, which involves making a phone call to emergency services with the intent that a large first responder presence, including SWAT teams, will show up at a residence.
Bellows was not home when the swatting call was made, and responding officers found nothing suspicious.
Suspects in swatting cases are being arrested and charged as states contemplate stronger penalties.
Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was the target of a swatting attempt at her Georgia residence on Christmas morning, the congresswoman and local police said.
A man in New York called the Georgia suicide hotline claiming he had shot his girlfriend at Greene’s home and was going to kill himself. Police said investigators were working to identify the caller and build a criminal case.
While the Maine Department of Public Safety did not share a suspected motive for the swatting attempt against Bellows, she had no doubts it stemmed from her decision to remove Trump from the ballot. The swatting attempt came after a conservative activist posted her home address on social media.
“And it was posted in anger and with violent intent by those who have been extending threatening communications toward me, my family and my office,” Bellows told The Associated Press in a phone call Saturday.
A call was made to emergency services from an unknown man saying he had broken into a house in Manchester, according to the Maine public safety department.
The address the man gave was Bellows’ home. Bellows and her husband were away for the holiday weekend. Maine State Police responded to what the public safety department said ultimately turned out to be a swatting call.
Police conducted an exterior sweep of the house and then checked inside at Bellows’ request. Nothing suspicious was found, and police continue to investigate.
“The Maine State Police is working with our law enforcement partners to provide special attention to any and all appropriate locations,” the public safety statement said.
Bellows said the intimidation factors won’t work. “Here’s what I’m not doing differently. I’m doing my job to uphold the Constitution, the rule of law.”
Beyond Bellows and Greene, other high-profile politicians who have been swatting call targets include U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
Bellows said she, her family and her office workers have been threatened since her decision to remove Trump from the ballot. At least one Republican lawmaker in Maine wants to pursue impeachment against her.
“Not only have there been threatening communications, but there have been dehumanizing fake images posted online and even fake text threads attributed to me,” said Bellows, who has worked in civil rights prior to becoming secretary of state.
“And my previous work taught me that dehumanizing people is the first step in creating an environment that leads to attacks and violence against that person,” she said. “It is extraordinarily dangerous for the rhetoric to have escalated to the point of dehumanizing me and threatening me, my loved ones and the people who work for me.”
She said the people of Maine have a strong tradition of being able to disagree on important issues without violence.
“I think it is extraordinarily important that everyone deescalate the rhetoric and remember the values that make our democratic republic and here in Maine, our state, so great,” she said.
The Trump campaign said it would appeal Bellows’ decision to Maine’s state courts, and Bellows suspended her ruling until that court system rules on the case.
The Colorado Supreme Court earlier this month removed Trump from that state’s ballot, a decision that also was stayed until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether he would be barred under the insurrection clause, a Civil War-era provision which prohibits those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.
Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.