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Controversial Tempe church pastor and his family targets of ‘swatting’

Zsuzsanna Anderson said it happened Monday afternoon while eight of her children were at the house and her husband was talking on a live podcast downstairs.
Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 4:52 PM MST
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AHWATUKEE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - An Ahwatukee family said they became swatting victims after a phony call for help led officers to show up at their home, guns out with a helicopter circling overhead on Monday.

Zsuzsanna Anderson said it happened Monday afternoon while eight of her children were at the house and her husband was talking on a live podcast downstairs. Her kids were playing outside when they told her a helicopter was flying really close to their yard.

“I’m like, ‘yeah, no worries. I’m sure they’re looking for somebody,’” said Anderson. “Then the helicopter started saying something like surrender and come up with your hands up, and I’m like what? What is he talking about?”

She started recording the chopper but had no clue it was there for her family.

“An officer popped over the wall, and she’s like, ‘mam, I’m going to need you to go outside,” said Anderson. “I’m like, ‘you’re here for me?’ I’m like, ‘no, you have the wrong address.’” When Anderson got to the front of the house, she saw officers lining her street. “When I came to the door, I saw my 13-year-old walking out with her hands up, squad cars in a semi-circle around, doors open, officers there with riffles tried on her.”

She said officers patted her down, finding nothing, and later told her this all started when they got a welfare call for her house.

“The caller escalated and said, ‘oh, now he has a gun. This is Steven Anderson. He’s a pastor, and he’s just shot and killed his wife, and he’s saying he’s doing this in the name of God,’” said Anderson.

Her husband, Steven, is a pastor at a controversial Tempe church, considered by The Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.

“I think my husband was obviously the target,” said Anderson.

Phoenix Police Sergeant Ann Justus does not know the motive but notes officers are investigating the call as false reporting.

“Swatting is when somebody calls 911 and reports a fake emergency to draw resources, specifically police and fire resources, to a certain location,” said Justus. “What people have to realize is you’re diverting critical resources, first responders who are out there and can help in a real emergency. Firefighters who might be better served saving a life somewhere else, and you’re diverting those resources to someone who doesn’t need them. Innocent lives can be affected, and people can lose their lives because of these things.”

While police try to figure out who placed the call, Anderson’s just thankful no one was hurt. “I’m not shook up about it or scared about it,” said Anderson. “I know God kept us safe.”

False reporting falls under a misdemeanor, but if you’re caught doing it multiple times, you could face felony charges.