A 60-year-old grandad has died of a heart attack after internet trolls filed false reports with emergency services leading to armed police storming his home – all because of his Twitter handle.
Mark Herring, 60, of Bethpage, Tennessee, US, owned the Twitter handle @Tennessee.
Reports have said that Herring set up his Twitter account when the website was still in its infancy and chose the handle because of his love for his home state and the Tennessee Volunteers.
In the following years, he is said to have received a number of offers to sell the Twitter handle, but always refused.
But on April 27, 2020, things took a deadly turn.
According to WKRN-TV, several of Herring's relatives began getting pizza deliveries that they had not ordered. Two of Herring's daughters and his ex-wife got multiple pizzas — all cash on delivery.
Things then took a deadly turn for the worse as the grandad was the unfortunate victim of a 'swatting' – when a fake crime is reported to the emergency services so armed police storm an address.
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A then-minor, called Shane Sonderman, was part of the campaign against Herring.
"He was from Tennessee," says Corinna Fitch, Herring's daughter. "He's the one that collected all our information, my address, my sister's, my moms, my mother sister, and put it on a channel on Discord, which is a gaming chat forum."
According to documents filed in Western Tennessee District Court, Shane Sonderman pleaded guilty in March to wire fraud/conspiracy; interstate communication of threats; false information and hoaxes; and conspiracy.
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According to the charging documents, Sonderman had six other victims across the country but only Herring died.
A second minor, from the UK, called the local police department to make the false report.
As the minor in the UK who made the call is still underage, they cannot be identified or extradited.
Herring's son said: "The neighbors called and said 'There's police everywhere, and they think a man has killed a woman and he's on your property, you gotta take cover.'"
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"He went out the house with a gun, because he heard someone was on his property," Ms Fitch explained. "He sees all these cops around him, and they ask if he is Mark Herring, 'put your hands up,' so he tosses the gun away from him to show he's not a threat, and [put his] hands up."
Mr Herring then suffered a heart attack and tragically died in hospital soon afterwards, his devastated family have revealed.
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Court documents state that Sonderman is currently awaiting sentencing.
The teenager faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 (more than £183,000) fine following the incident, but Herring's family have said the potential punishment is inadequate.
Ms Fitch added: "You've not just changed that one person's life; you've done a ripple effect. They need to pay for that."
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