Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist was victim of hoax 911 police call

A prank phone call led police to the Bowie, Md. home of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Leonard G. Pitts Jr., where they handcuffed him while investigating a report of a crime.

Pitts, a columnist for The Miami Herald, said police woke him up early Sunday morning at 4:48 a.m. to investigate a reported crime taking place inside Pitts’ home. The phone tip, which called into the Bowie police and referenced that a serious crime was taking place, was found to be false, according to The Washington Post.

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Pitts told reporters that he didn’t have a clue who would make such a call, but that someone called 911 to report to police that his wife or another person was “being murdered” inside his house. Pitts said police ordered him out of the house and told him to get on his knees. It was then that they handcuffed a surprised Pitts.

Pitts’ wife and other family members soon exited the house, and after police checked the house to determine there “were no corpses,” Pitts was released with a police apology, he said.

The column that Pitts, 61, writes covers national issues and runs in roughly 250 papers. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his commentary in 2004.

Bowie Police Chief John Nesky, who also arrived at the scene early Sunday morning, told the Miami Herald that his department would investigate the matter, according to The Washington Post.

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Nesky also told the Miami Herald that his officers have to “assume the information is valid until we prove otherwise.”

Swatting is a common type of fraudulent call where callers send police to random people’s homes on the report of a crime. However, Nesky told the paper he isn’t sure if this incident can be classified as swatting or something that was more targeted.

Pitts said he is clueless as to who could have done this, and said police informed him that the caller’s telephone number was blocked.

When a reporter asked him whether he had recently written on a topic that may have been controversial, Pitts laughed and responded that much of his work could be deemed that way. But say most recently he was on vacation so couldn’t have ruffled any feathers.

And he said he holds no grudges against the police, who were just doing their jobs.

The police “were pretty cool,” he said. “I can find no fault with them.”