Man Died in 'Swatting' Targeting Scheme After Refusing to Sell Desired Twitter Handle: Family

A man in Tennessee died last year after a "swatting" call targeted him when he refused to give up his Twitter handle—and his family is now sharing that story.

Mark Herring, 60, chose the Twitter handle @Tennessee because he wanted to show support for his home state and that he loved the Tennessee Volunteers, according to his family, WKRN reported. As the owner of the handle, Herring received numerous offers to sell it to other users who wanted the same name.

But Herring made it known that the Twitter handle was not for sale. Then on April 27, 2020, things started to become strange for Herring and his family. Reportedly, two of Herring's daughters spontaneously received pizza deliveries despite not ordering them.

"I open the door and he says, 'I have a pizza for Mark Herring.' He would have told me if he sent us pizza. I went away and called, texted, no response," said Corinna Fitch, Herring's daughter, reported WKRN.

Greg Hooge, Herring's son-in-law, said that he thought something was wrong with Herring after the pizza deliveries.

"I started calling him. I finally reached his live-in girlfriend. She said, 'Everything is not okay. I'm in the back of a cop car. I got to go,'" Hooge recalled.

Herring's family eventually learned that prior to the pizza deliveries, an anonymous caller demanded that Herring give up his Twitter handle, but he declined.

Hooge told WKRN that Herring received a call from his neighbor telling him that "'there's police everywhere and they think a man has killed a woman and he's on your property. You need to take cover.'"

Fitch explained that after receiving the call, Herring "went out of the house with a gun because he heard someone was on his property," and noticed numerous cops surrounding his home.

"They ask if he's Mark Herring and [say] 'Put your hands up.' He tosses the gun away to show he's not a threat than [puts his] hands up," she said.

Herring died from a heart attack minutes after more police officers arrived at his home.

Hooge said the call made to police "had been a prank phone call or a swatting phone call."

According to Cloudflare, a web security company: "Swatting entails generating an emergency law enforcement response against a target victim under false pretenses. Swatters do this by making phone calls to emergency lines like 911 and falsely reporting a violent emergency situation, such as a shooting or hostage situation.

WKRN-TV reported that months after their father's death in April 2020, Herring's family learned about a man named Shane Sonderman, who allegedly was part of the swatting call that lead to Herring's death.

"He's the one that collected all of our information...my address, my sister, my mom's, my other sister's. He put it on a channel on Discord, which is a gaming chat forum," Fitch said.

Court documents filed in the Tennessee Western District Court stated that in April 2020, Sonderman "posted the names and addresses of" Herring and his family members "to Discord channel 704485331952467000."

The filing said that "as part of the harassment campaign, defendant Sonderman and his coconspirators would place calls to emergency service dispatchers or 911 dispatchers, claiming that an emergency was in progress at the residence of the owner of the desired" social media handle.

According to the docs, Sonderman has been charged with wire fraud/conspiracy; interstate communication of threats; false information and hoaxes; and conspiracy. Sonderman reportedly had six other victims across the country, and he is currently in jail awaiting trial.

"Watch your kids on the internet, because they know more than you think they know," Fitch warned.

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A man in Tennessee died after a "swatting" targeting scheme for refusing to sell his desired Twitter handle. The Twitter logo is seen on a phone in this photo illustration in Washington, DC, on July 10, 2019 Alastair Pike/Getty