NEWARK, N.J. – A Texas woman who admitted she started the six-hour standoff between police and purported hostage-takers in New Brunswick (search) earlier this week by phoning in a fake emergency call was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiracy and other offenses.
Fatin A. Ward (search), 23, of Arlington, Texas, told The Associated Press Thursday morning she was playing a telephone game called "bombing" in which people make bogus emergency calls and then see how many law enforcement officers respond. Her mother said Ward has a history of mental illness and has been refusing to take medication.
"I didn't mean to cause any trouble," Ward said in a telephone interview Thursday morning. "It got out of control."
The Middlesex County prosecutor's office signed criminal complaints Thursday afternoon against Ward and an accomplice, Wadu Jackson (search), 20, of Irvington, charging them with conspiracy, initiating a false public alarm, and making a fictitious report to police.
Ward was arrested in Texas at about noon on an unrelated charge there, said Christy Gilfour, spokeswoman for Arlington, Texas, police. Jackson was still being sought in New Jersey on Thursday afternoon.
The prosecutor's office asked police in Arlington, Texas, to extradite Ward to New Jersey.
Ward declined to say exactly what she told police to spark Tuesday's standoff. She told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Thursday's newspapers that she told police she had been handcuffed to a bed, raped and was being held hostage in an apartment. That prompted police to cordon off a neighborhood more than 1,500 miles away.
The standoff ended when three teenagers who were in a third-floor apartment walked out of the house. The teens were taken into custody and then released. Middlesex County First Assistant Prosecutor William Lamb said Thursday that the three teens have been cleared of any criminal activity.
David Wilson, father of two of them, said the teens saw police outside the apartment house and figured somebody was in the house with a gun. They had no idea police suspected they were armed, he said. Wilson said the three teens do not know Ward or a male caller who told police he would kill his hostages.
Ward's mother, Dorthula Wisener, told The Associated Press on Thursday that her daughter didn't fully realize that what she was doing was wrong. Ward and a friend were at Wisener's house Wednesday night, watching television reports about the standoff.
"They were carrying on, laughing and giggling like it was a joke," Wisener said. "I said, 'What the ... are you laughing at? This sounds really serious.' I asked her to leave. I couldn't understand her giggling. She was on a chat line talking to people as this (television news reports about the incident) was going on. They were laughing so hard I could hardly hear the TV."
Wisener said her daughter, who grew up in Teaneck, suffers from bipolar disorder, but has lately refused to take medicine to treat the condition.
Ward said others on the chat line are more responsible for the incident than she was, including a male caller who gave police the name "Carlos" and told them he would kill his alleged hostage and anyone who approached the apartment.
She told the newspaper the man who asked her to make the call wanted to take revenge on a 16-year-old girl who lived in a first-floor apartment in the building that police surrounded. There was no answer at the first-floor apartment on Thursday.
Ward, a sex offender registered with Texas law enforcement authorities, is listed on a state database as on probation for aggravated sexual assault on a 12-year-old boy in 2000. Ward told the newspaper the boy, now about 16, is the father of her 4-year-old son.
Ward is not employed; she receives a monthly disability check for her bipolar disorder, her mother said.
She is suspected of pulling similar pranks in other New Jersey and Pennsylvania, according to police. On Jan. 5, Feb. 1 and Feb. 15, a woman believed to be Ward called police in Union reporting various emergency situations including shootings and stabbings, but each turned out to be a hoax, police said. A similar call to Belleville on Jan. 17 sent a SWAT team scrambling to a house where a man and his mother were calmly watching television.
And police in Palmer, Pa., say Ward was responsible for a three-hour standoff stemming from a bogus emergency call Feb. 20 that cost his department between $5,000 and $7,000 in response costs.