Detective honored with service award

Tribune Staff • Jun 16, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Ottawa County Detective Kerri Cannata received the Michigan Sheriff’s Meritorious Service Award at the Michigan Sheriff’s Conference on June 12.

Cannata was selected from the nominations that were submitted to the awards committee for her work in solving an extensive case involving “swatting” calls in Michigan and across the country. 

The case involved multiple incidents that began in late 2014 and continued into 2016. It involved calls with bomb threats and threats to kill people and shoot up locations, including a call to an FBI agent’s home threatening to kidnap and slaughter his family.

The “swatting” was also focused on several schools in Ottawa County, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University, two local television stations and three major airports, causing shutdowns and full security alerts.

The case involved many law enforcement agencies across the country., effected thousands of civilians, interrupted daily activity of schools and airlines, and cost large expenses to the victims. There were also large expenses to law enforcement for their responses and investigations — all of this after a backdrop of several mass shootings in the U.S.

The suspect in the case called himself Ransom, Ransom the Terrorist and Ransom the Thug.

Over time, Ransom became more bold, actually calling into the sheriff’s office several times taunting the detectives. The FBI had joined in the investigation and were unable to track the calls and computer connection that was being used.

Cannata would not give up, spending countless hours tracking information in chat rooms, executing search warrants and tracing back IP addresses and other investigative information looking for a needle in a haystack.

Cannata was able to break the case when the suspect ordered a piece of electronic equipment out of California, which provided leads to an address overseas. She was then able to finally ID the suspect, who was in the London, England, area. The FBI and Britain’s North West Regional Organized Crime Unit had formed a joint task force. Without the information that was developed by Cannata, it was possible the suspect may not have been caught.

Ransom was located and arrested without incident. Ransom was charged and convicted quickly in England on terrorism-related charges.

Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker congratulated Cannata and thanked her for the work that she does for the victims of crime, the citizens of Ottawa County and the Sheriff’s Office.

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