WASHINGTON: Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper columnist Leonard G Pitts Jr said he was awakened early on Sunday by police who ordered him out of his home in suburban Bowie, Maryland, and handcuffed him while they investigated a report that a crime was being committed in the house.
The report, made to Bowie police by telephone, was determined to be false.
Pitts, 61, writes a column for the Miami Herald that deals with national issues and appears in about 250 papers. He won the Pulitzer for commentary in 2004.
Pitts said he had no idea who might have made the call that prompted police to wake him from a sound sleep at 4.48am.
He said police told him that they had received a 911 call indicating that his wife or possibly another person was “being murdered” in the house. He said he was instructed to come out of the house, while remaining on his mobile phone, and was ordered to his knees and handcuffed.
His wife and other family members emerged from the house, and police asked to check the house, satisfying themselves that there “were no corpses,” Pitts said.
He said police apologised to him.
Bowie Police Chief John Nesky, who showed up at the scene, told the Miami Herald earlier on Sunday that the department was investigating what happened.
While the incident appeared to resemble a type of call known as “swatting,” in which callers fraudulently send officers to the houses of innocent people, Nesky told the Herald he was not yet prepared to categorise the incident that way.
But, he told the newspaper, “We do know there was false information given.”
Nesky said officers must “assume the information is valid until we prove otherwise,” the Herald reported.
Pitts said he had no idea who would have placed the call, adding that police told him that the caller’s telephone number was blocked.
He chuckled when asked whether he had recently written anything controversial, and indicated that all his work could be described that way. But, he said, there had been nothing recent, as he had just returned from vacation.
In all, he said, the incident lasted perhaps a half-hour.
But, he said, he doesn’t blame the officers, who he said were just doing their jobs.
The police “were pretty cool,” he said. “I can find no fault with them.”