Gamers attending a monthly social gathering at Digital Press Video Games in Clifton, New Jersey Saturday evening had no idea the sudden massive police presence outside the store was pointed their way, until a caller posing as a fire department representative started giving them questionable instructions.

According to local reports, the Passaic County Sheriff's Office received a call alerting them to a hostage situation at Digital Press Video Games shortly after 7 PM on Saturday evening. The caller described a situation in which men with shotguns were holding multiple people hostage, several of which were already wounded.

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In response to the call the Passaic County Sheriff's Office dispatched a SWAT team and hostage negotiators, while the New Jersey State Police sent reinforcements. The force surrounded the commercial shopping strip where Digital Press is located, closing off Route 46 in both directions.

Digital Press web administrator and podcaster Frankie Viturello, who provided Kotaku with the full firsthand report of the incident found below, tells us that a large group of around 40 had gathered at the store for the monthly meeting of "NAVA" (North Atlantic Videogame Aficionados), an event where video games are discussed and traded among fans.

Viturello describes what was going on inside the store as authorities converged.

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"Everything seemed normal to everybody up until the 8 PM hour when we noticed that Clifton police were converging on the streets outside of the store. We speculated that there was some type of armed conflict going on in one of the other businesses on the street, so we told the attendees to lock and stay as far away from the front entrance as possible and/or to converge in the basement of the store (where several of us were already hanging out and chatting about game-related things)."

Listening to police band radio via their phones for some clue as to what was going on, all attendees could discern was that there was some sort of "ongoing incident" occurring in the area.

About an hour after arriving, authorities slowly started to converge on Digital Press.

It was around this time a call came through to the store. According to Viturello and corroborated by the female employee of the store who answered the call, a man claiming to be a representative of the Clifton's Fire Department was on the other end.

"At one point during that time an individual called the store claiming to be a representative of Clifton's Fire Department and instructed an unsuspecting employee to close the store's front window blinds. They willingly complied with the first request, which wasn't too out of the ordinary (and, really, what do we know about protocol in these situations). Only when the caller then attempted to instruct the employee to go outside and shout something to the effect of: "Clear the area, somebody has a gun!" did they realize that something wasn't right..."

According to the female employee, that was the moment she handed the phone to store owner Joe Santulli, who hung up and called the Clifton police to find out what was going on.

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Once the situation inside Digital Press was explained, the SWAT team moved in. Viturello describes what happened next.

"All that taken into account by the police on hand, protocol still dictated that they needed to enter the building to asses the threat in full riot gear with assault weapons, address each of us individually, take each person out individually, handcuff each of us, and sit us down in the business next door to Digital Press for approximately 20 minutes where we waited for them to clear the store, do a sweep, confirm that it was a hoax and then remove our cuffs and take our personal information down."

No arrests were made, no injuries reported, and soon the NAVA meeting was back in full swing.

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Police are still investigating the source of the initial call, as well as the follow-up call to the store itself.

Swatting is a vile act in and of itself, its perpetrators often feeling as if they are untouchable, even when they are not. The idea that a person making a false report to the authorities in order to illicit an armed response would then attempt to further confuse the situation by posing as a member of said authorities in order to escalate an already tense situation is chilling.

What follows is Digital Press web administrator and podcaster Frankie Viturello's full account of the incident.

The store is owned/operated by Joe Santulli, one of the curators of the upcoming Videogame History Museum in Frisco Texas. Joe is always present at these events and is a gracious and fun host to all. He gives back to the classic gaming community in every conceivable way.

Our "NAVA" events are monthly, open to all and run from about 2PM to midnight. It's an incredibly friendly atmosphere filled with swap-meet style sales and trading of classic game merchandise, high score contests, tournaments and classic console and arcade free-play sessions.

Everything seemed normal to everybody up until the 8 PM hour when we noticed that Clifton police were converging on the streets outside of the store. We speculated that there was some type of armed conflict going on in one of the other businesses on the street, so we told the attendees to lock and stay as far away from the front entrance as possible and/or to converge in the basement of the store (where several of us were already hanging out and chatting about game-related things).

After the police didn't disperse we started listening to local police bands on our smartphones (what a wonderful age of digital technology when you can literally just download an app and start listening in to police radio). We noticed that there was some chatter about the ongoing incident but they weren't mentioning what business on the street it was happening at. (Turns out since it was reported as happening in Digital Press they likely didn't want to raise any awareness to the potential "shooter" inside).

This went on for the better part of an hour as the police shut down the street and slowly SLOWLY converged on the establishment. At one point during that time an individual called the store claiming to be a representative of Clifton's Fire Department and instructed an unsuspecting employee to close the store's front window blinds. They willingly complied with the first request, which wasn't too out of the ordinary (and, really, what do we know about protocol in these situations). Only when the caller then attempted to instruct the employee to go outside and shout something to the effect of:

"Clear the area, somebody has a gun!"

did they realize that something wasn't right and that they were being coaxed into doing things to escalate the potential for police violence against each and every one of the innocent bystanders at the event.

As we listened on via the police scanners in the basement we heard this all playing out in parts still generally ignorant of what was going on outside or that it was actually us that was the target of a swatting prank.

After the mystery caller made his "big play", Joe Santulli called the Clifton Police to explain and ask what was going on. He explained to them that this was a regular gathering/party atmosphere of friendly individuals and that there was certainly no shooting, gunman or hostage situation.

All that taken into account by the Police on hand, police protocol still dictated that they needed to enter the building to asses the threat in full riot gear with assault weapons, address each of us individually, take each person out individually, handcuff each of us, and sit us down in the business next door to Digital Press for approximately 20 minutes where we waited for them to clear the store, do a sweep, confirm that it was a hoax and then remove our cuffs and take our personal information down.

While it was certainly a very dangerous situation with a motivated individual who attempted to do everything possible to cause the potential for physical harm, I feel that the Clifton Police acted appropriately, were professional throughout and when the event was over some of them even hung around NAVA (which restarted immediately after the event) probably because they wanted to make sure that we were safe ... but we could tell that they were interested in the crates of Atari and NES merchandise out for sale/trade.

The classic gaming community is a very tightly knit one and as much as some of us were momentarily rattled by the swatting, we were back to discussing potential themes for next month's events within an hour of it happening.

We're thinking all "law-enforcement" themed games and tournaments for next month's event (NARC, Lethal Enforcers, Virtua Cop, etc.).

We can't publicly speculate on the individual responsible or their motivations during any police investigation into the matter, however the police are looking into the cause and individual(s) responsible.

We thank Mr. Viturello for reaching out to Kotaku.

Top image via CBS 2 New York