Racine man facing federal charges for livestreaming ‘swatting’ incidents around US

Kya Nelson allegedly accessed Ring doorbell cameras to broadcast armed police responses to fake emergencies

Ring doorbell camera
In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019, photo, a Ring doorbell camera is seen at a home in Wolcott, Conn. Jessica Hill/AP Photo

A Racine man is facing federal charges for accessing Ring doorbell cameras and streaming armed police responses to fake emergency calls he and another man orchestrated at homes around the country.

Kya Christian Nelson, 21, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles Dec.16 for his role in a “swatting spree” between Nov. 7, 2020 and Nov. 13, 2020.

The indictment alleges Nelson and an Arizona man acquired login and password information for Yahoo email accounts for individuals around the U.S. The two then used those credentials to access Ring doorbell cameras at the victims’ homes and called police, telling them they were children at the residences whose parents were drinking and shooting guns inside, according to the indictment.

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Nelson and his accomplice allegedly used the Ring devices to livestream the ensuing police responses online. The pair even used the Ring speaker function to taunt officers and homeowners during the events.

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Kal Shobaki, told WPR it’s unclear what the defendant’s motive was.

“I think that there’s definitely a prank aspect to this,” Shobaki said. “Obviously, when you see the sort of the response and the danger that people are put in by having armed police coming to a house believing that there’s a life-threatening incident, it’s not funny. And indeed it is actually quite dangerous.”

The swatting incidents happened in Michigan, California, Montana, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, Florida and Texas, and prompted an FBI warning for users of smart home devices with cameras.

While swatting incidents, where fake calls are made to police to elicit an armed response, have become more common, Shobaki said he’s not aware of any prior instances being livestreamed using compromised home security cameras.

“One of the big takeaways here is that you should just never use the same password for different accounts, whether it’s different email accounts, whether it’s your social media accounts, whether it’s banking accounts,” Shobaki said.

Nelson is charged with two counts of intentionally accessing computers without authorization and two felony counts of aggravated identity theft. If convicted, Nelson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Nelson is currently serving a seven-year prison term in Kentucky on an unrelated case, in which he pleaded guilty to calling in a fake active shooter report at a high school.