© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Police investigating after Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft's home is swatted

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks in favor of bills that would, in part, ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during an Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft speaks in favor of bills that would, in part, ban the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools in January 2023 during a hearing in Jefferson City. Ashcroft, a candidate for Missouri Governor, is the latest prominent figure targeted by false crime reports intended to trigger heavy police response.

Jefferson City police are investigating a false emergency call that on Sunday evening sent more than half a dozen armed officers to the home of Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.

Ashcroft said in an interview with The Independent that shortly after 9 p.m. he received a call from police saying they were at his home and instructing him to come outside. His children were writing Christmas thank you notes and watching football, he said, while he was in his basement preparing to exercise.

“I ended up having my wife take the kids upstairs to the back bedroom,” Ashcroft said. “I ended up walking out of my house with nothing in my hands, my hands way up, very slowly, to meet several police officers that were well armed because they received a report that at this address the husband had shot and killed his wife and had at least several other shots fired if not several other people shot.”

Ashcroft said officers told him the report was anonymous.

Lt. David Williams, a spokesman for the Jefferson City Police Department, told The Independent he had very little information he could share. He declined to say whether police had identified the source of the call, or whether it came from within the state.

“I can tell you that we received the call and that we are currently investigating,” Williams said.

Making a maliciously false emergency call to 911 to trigger a massive police response is called swatting — and it can be deadly.

In December 2017, Wichita, Kansas, police shot and killed 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his front door, and an Ohio man was sentenced in 2019 for making the 911 call.

Ashcroft is a candidate for governor in the Republican primary. He recently said he would consider ways to block President Joe Biden from the Missouri presidential ballot if the courts allow Colorado and Maine to exclude former President Donald Trump based on violations of the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause.

Swatting calls that target prominent public figures have made news repeatedly in recent weeks. On Sunday, police responded to the home of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over Donald Trump’s election interference case, over a false report of a shooting at a home owned by Chutkan.

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s home in Naples, Florida, was swatted Dec. 27, and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was swatted on Christmas morning.

Businessman George Soros was swatted New Year’s weekend

Ashcroft praised Jefferson City police for their restraint during the response.

“They were very professional,” he said. “They were very calm. They were more calm than I was.”

After Ashcroft posted about the response on social media, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden posted a response that he would introduce legislation to increase the penalties for making a false report.

Currently, it is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail, to make a false report accusing someone of a crime.

State Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin, has introduced legislation to make it a felony to falsely report someone has committed a felony. It would be a class B felony, with a prison term of five to 15 years, if it results in “death or serious physical injury as a proximate result of lawful conduct.”

Any legislation should provide stiffer penalties for any false reports and not just protect people who are public figures, Ashcroft said.

“It puts people’s lives in danger,” he said. “You know, the scary thing to me is, what if this had happened if my wife and I were out for dinner and my 17-year-old and my other kids were home and you know what if they reacted differently.”

Ashcroft also said he’s concerned because of the number of officers taken from regular duties for the false alarm at his house.

“I hate to think about other people that needed police help but weren’t able to do it because they had been sent on a wild goose chase to my house,” Ashcroft said.

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent, part of the States Newsroom.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and state legislature as the Deputy Editor at The Missouri Independent.