"It was an interesting way to start the morning," says columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., and that may be just a bit of an understatement. After someone made a hoax call to police reporting that the wife of the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist was being murdered inside their Bowie, Md., home, Pitts was woken up Sunday with a pre-5am phone call from police telling him to exit his home while remaining on the phone. "I knew that if I remained calm, it would be fine because there was nothing to hide," Pitts says. As he left the home, he was told to put the phone down and his hands up, and walk toward a bright spotlight shining on him before kneeling with his hands behind his back. He was handcuffed for the first time in his life, he tells NBC4 Washington. He was then taken behind a police car and questioned as his wife, adult daughter and daughter-in-law, and 3-year-old granddaughter were also asked to come outside and his home was searched.
Police set up a barricade around the home, but "we were able to determine pretty quickly that there was nothing going on," the Bowie police chief tells the Miami Herald. It appears to have been a so-called "swatting" incident (though the officers who responded in this case were not members of the actual SWAT team), in which a hoax call is made to police to get officers sent to someone's home. The police chief isn't yet ready to confirm this was such an incident, but he says it's being investigated and police know there was "false information given." Officers apologized to Pitts, whose columns, which sometimes touch on controversial topics, appear in hundreds of newspapers across the nation and who's also an award-winning author. "Technology is cheap terrorism," Pitts says. He adds, to the Capital Gazette, "I suspect the person wouldn't have been crushed if there were violence out of it." (Read more swatting stories.)