A Huntington man was arrested Tuesday after he threatened to shoot an 11-year-old boy after losing to him in the video game Fortnite, police said.
Michael Aliperti, 45, threatened on Monday night to come to the boy's home and cause him pain, alluding to where he went to school in Kings Park, Suffolk County Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said.
“I find this to be a very troubling thing,” Cameron said at a news conference in Hauppauge on Tuesday. “It’s kind of shocking to me.”
But Aliperti's attorney, Andrew Karpf of Huntington Station, said he is seeking transcripts of his client’s alleged threats. He also said Aliperti is going through a “bitter divorce.”
“Salty language is a two-way street and it’s normal behavior in the gaming community,” he said.
There was an increased police presence at R.J.O. Intermediate School in Kings Park, where the alleged victim goes to school, on Tuesday as a result of the threat — even though it was not directly made at the school.
“We took this as a school threat,” Cameron said. “That was done out of an abundance of caution.”
Kings Park Central School District Superintendent Timothy Eagen said parents should speak to their children about online gaming after this incident.
“Many of our children (mine included) engage in gaming on the internet. The newest craze is over the game Fortnite,” he said in a letter posted to the district’s website. “We should all use this incident as an important reminder that children should not be gaming with individuals that they do not know.”
Suffolk police said they did not have information about similar incidents previously.
Aliperti had been playing Fortnite on Xbox One with the youth — they had been introduced through other juveniles — when he lost, police said. Aliperti then threatened the child through text messages and online voice messages about 9 p.m. Monday, police said.
"The man threatened to shoot the child, possibly at his school," police said in a news release.
“It kind of gives a new definition of sore loser,” Cameron said.
The child’s family reported the incident to the Fourth Precinct, police said. The child and Aliperti have played the video game together for several months.
Aliperti was arrested at his home about 1:40 a.m. Tuesday and charged with second-degree aggravated harassment and acting in a manner to injure a child, police said.
Police found an airsoft rifle, a type of plastic pellet gun, at Aliperti’s home, Cameron said.
Aliperti pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday at First District Court in Central Islip, according to the Suffolk County district attorney's office. Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Andrew Crecca set bail at $2,500 cash or $10,000 bond, and an order of protection was issued for the alleged victim. Aliperti is due to return to court on Oct. 4.
Fortnite, a cartoony third-person shooter game, has a massively popular online multiplayer mode called Battle Royale. In that mode, up to 100 players drop onto an island with the goal of being the sole survivor.
The hit 2017 game from Epic Games, which is free to download on multiple platforms, has 125 million global players, The Associated Press reported in July.
The game is so popular in casual and professional settings that parents have hired tutors to train their kids and themselves on it, Newsday reported last month.
Cameron cautioned parents to monitor their kids’ video game playing and be aware of who their online opponents are.
“We are taking this very seriously,” he said.