2017 Wichita swatting

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2017 Wichita, Kansas Swatting
DateDecember 28, 2017 (2017-12-28)
LocationWichita, Kansas, United States
MotiveRevenge swatting due to disagreement in video game Call of Duty: WWII
Participants
  • Casey Viner (contacted swatter)
  • Shane Gaskill (gave address)
  • Tyler Barriss (called in SWAT)
  • Justin Rapp (fired shot)
Casualties
Andrew Thomas Finch
Death(s)1

The 2017 Wichita, Kansas swatting was a swatting event that occurred on December 28, 2017. Twenty-five-year-old Los Angeles resident Tyler Barriss called the police to falsely report a violent crime in progress, due to a disagreement over a $1.50 bet on the 2017 video game Call of Duty: WWII. Andrew Finch, 28, lived at the address given by Barriss, and was fatally shot inside his home by Wichita police. Police said that Finch was not the intended target of the swatting, and was not involved with the Call of Duty game. The caller stated that the suspect had shot and killed his father, was holding his mother and younger brother hostage, and was planning to set the house on fire.

Barriss pled guilty to federal charges of false information and hoaxes, cyberstalking, threatening to kill another or damage property by fire, interstate threats, conspiracy, and several counts of wire fraud, according to federal court records.[1] He also faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in Kansas and of false alarm in his home state of California.[2]

Background[edit]

Tyler Barriss[edit]

At the time of the incident, Tyler Raj Barriss was a 25-year-old homeless man living in Los Angeles, California. Known online as "SWAuTistic", he had a criminal record including domestic violence,[3] and had served 16 months in Los Angeles County Jail for making false bomb threats against KABC-TV, an elementary school in Los Angeles, and a middle school in Granada Hills. He was wanted by police in Panama City, Florida for calling approximately 30 other bomb threats including one to a high school,[4] and on fraud and mischief charges in Canada for harassing a woman in Calgary.[5] A few weeks prior to the incident, he allegedly made threats by phone regarding explosives in the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission and of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Barriss admitted to swatting people for hire, but declined to state how much he was paid.

Events of December 28[edit]

Reports surfaced that the deadly series of events reportedly began with an online argument over a $1.50 wager in an online match of Call of Duty: WWII on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments including one involving the said game. Two men, Casey Viner[6] (known by pseudonym Baperizer) and Shane Gaskill[6] (known by pseudonym Miruhcle), fought over friendly fire in the Call of Duty: WWII match, and causing them to lose both the match and $1.50 in wagers. The two gamers took to Twitter in an argument about the loss.

Viner threatened to swat Gaskill over the loss. Gaskill gave Viner an address in Wichita, believed to be a previous residence from which Gaskill's family was evicted in 2016, where he said he would "be waiting".[7] Viner then contacted Barriss and provided him with the address given to swat Gaskill. Police are certain Andrew Finch was not the intended target, and had nothing to do with the bet. Finch was not a known gamer and had nothing to do with the Call of Duty match.[8]

Using voice over IP through the free wifi provided by a South Los Angeles library, Barriss called the Wichita police department. Because the call was transferred from Wichita City Hall to 911, the dispatcher believed the call was coming from the Wichita area. Barriss, identifying himself as "Brian", claimed that he was at a residence at 1033 West McCormick Street, had fatally shot his father, and was holding family members at gunpoint. He asked if police were coming to the house, saying he had already poured gasoline all over the house and threatening to set it on fire.

Shooting[edit]

Wichita Police Department officers responded to Barriss’s call and surrounded Finch's residence. Before the police presence was announced, Andrew Finch is reported by his mother Lisa Finch, who was at the scene, to have opened the front door "because he heard something." Mrs. Finch reports that her 28-year old son "screamed and then they shot him". Moments after Finch stepped onto his front porch, police ordered him to put his hands up. According to officer testimony, he began to do so and then stopped. A Wichita police officer standing on the other side of the street fired a single round[9] from a Colt AR-15 at Finch, piercing his heart and right lung.[10] Finch was transported to St. Francis Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Finch's mother reports the police then ordered her and other family members to exit the residence. The family was handcuffed and taken to the police station for questioning. Initial reports from Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston stated that “A male came to the front door. As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.” Livingston did not initially state if Finch was armed, or what caused the officer to fire his weapon. In a later statement on December 30, the Wichita Police Department stated the shooting was caused by Andrew Finch "reaching into his waistband".[11] The officer involved was eventually identified as Justin Rapp, a seven-year veteran of the force.[12]

Justin Rapp testified in May 2018 that he was given no information when he arrived at the scene, including when Finch was given his first verbal command, when the 911 call ended, or whether officers at the scene were aware the caller was still on the phone with 911.[13] Sedgwick County Department of Emergency Communications has also denied an open records request pertaining to the 911 call, stating the police department had asked that no more records be released.[14]

Aftermath[edit]

Many Wichita residents and other US-based commentators have expressed concern or outrage over the police shooting of Finch.[15] Wichita residents used the opportunity of a City Council meeting on January 9 to voice concerns on the subject, including questioning the editing of the police body cam footage to a mere 7 seconds, and arguing the city should assume full responsibility to avoid a lengthy struggle by the Finch family for justice. The Council did not comment directly, but indicated a willingness to consider training procedures at a later time.[16]

Nearly a week after the shooting, Andrew Finch’s mother Lisa Finch wrote to the Wichita mayor and police chief stating that she doesn't know where they're keeping her son’s body and she wants to give him a "proper funeral service and burial." "Please let me see my son's lifeless body," she wrote in a letter dated January 3. In this same letter, Mrs. Finch asked why the police officer who killed her son had not, at that time, been identified, why the family was handcuffed, and when police will return their belongings, including two cell phones and a computer, seized from the house. The family attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, has also called for the city, police department, and officer involved in the shooting to be held liable "for the unjustified shooting of Andrew Finch."[17]

Parties involved[edit]

Shooting victim[edit]

  • Andrew Thomas Finch, aged 28; father of two, who had no affiliation with either the three men or the Call of Duty game.[18]

Call of Duty: WWII players[edit]

  • Casey "Baperizer" Viner,[6] 18; of North College Hill, Ohio[7]
  • Shane "Miruhcle" Gaskill,[6] 19; of Wichita, Kansas[7]

911 caller[edit]

  • Tyler Raj Barriss, 25; of Los Angeles, California[19]

Shooter[edit]

  • Justin Rapp, Officer, Wichita Police Department; Rapp initially claimed he believed Finch had a gun, but testified in May 2018 that he merely saw Finch make a motion with his hand[13]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Barriss was arrested on December 29 at a Los Angeles homeless shelter on a fugitive warrant stemming from a 2015 charge of making false bomb threats to KABC-TV, and was charged with false alarm, a felony. On January 12, 2018, Barriss was extradited to Kansas where he was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and has been held in Sedgwick County Jail.[2]

The Sedgwick County district attorney, Marc Bennett, has announced that no charges would be brought against Officer Justin Rapp.

On May 23, Barriss, Viner and Gaskill were indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas on charges related to the swatting. Barriss is charged with false information and hoaxes, cyberstalking resulting in death, making threats of death or damage to property by fire, interstate threats, conspiracy to make false reports, and wire fraud. Viner is charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to make false/hoax reports, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Gaskill is charged with obstruction of justice, wire fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In July, Gaskill was re-indicted on additional charges after it was discovered that he goaded Barriss to "try again" after the fatal shooting.[1][20] If convicted on all charges, Barriss could face up to life in prison, while Viner and Gaskill could face over 60 years in prison.[21]

On October 26, 46 additional charges against Barriss were added, which include financial fraud, and fake threats of bombs and shootings made to police and schools; some of these charges involved unindicted co-conspirators residing in Des Plaines, Illinois; Gulf Breeze, Florida; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Greenwood, Missouri. On November 13 he pleaded guilty to 51 federal charges, for which U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister will recommend a sentence of 20 years' incarceration. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Barriss will also be required to formally apologize to Finch's family, pay $10,100 in fines and restitution, and agree to five years of supervised release.[22] Federal prosecutors in California, Kansas, and the District of Columbia, agreed to not file any more criminal charges against Barriss for the swattings; however, state charges in Kansas are still pending, with a trial expected to begin in March of 2019.

Legislative response[edit]

In response to Finch's slaying, the Kansas state legislature approved a bill in March 2018 to establish creating a false alarm resulting in injury or death as a class one felony, carrying a prison sentence between 10 and 41 years. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jeff Colyer on April 12.[23] The Andrew T. Finch Memorial Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Estes in March 2018. The bill, also known as the Preventing Swatting and Protecting Our Communities Act of 2018, would make providing false information with the intent to cause an emergency response punishable by up to five years' imprisonment, up to 20 years' imprisonment if serious injury results, and up to life imprisonment if the act results in death. The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations,[24] but was never taken up for a vote and died in committee. Rep. Eliot Engel introduced a bill in January 2019 to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for enhanced penalties for the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to trigger an emergency response.[25]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Leiker, Amy Renee (May 28, 2018). "Tyler Barriss, gamers involved in fatal Wichita 'swatting' indicted on federal charges". The Wichita Eagle.
  2. ^ a b "Suspect in fatal "SWATting" call faces charge of making false alarm". CBS News. January 3, 2018.
  3. ^ Manna, Nichole (January 4, 2018). "Swatting suspect said he'd kill his grandmother if she talked, court filing says". The Wichita Eagle.
  4. ^ McDonald, Zack. "PCBPD closed in on swatter before fatal shooting". Panama City News Herald.
  5. ^ "Los Angeles man charged with Calgary swatting incident". The City of Calgary. January 9, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Queally, James (January 26, 2018). "Fictitious shooting in video game sparked real-life shooting in Kansas swatting case, records show". The Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ a b c Manna, Nichole (January 30, 2018). "Family of gamer who allegedly gave address to swatter used to live at 1033 W. McCormick". The Wichita Eagle.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "City Council Meeting, May 1 2018". Granicus - City of Wichita, KS. May 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "Autopsy Report: Andrew Finch" (PDF). December 29, 2017.
  11. ^ Manna, Nichole (January 9, 2018). "Police release 'swatting' call, video of man being shot to death as a result of hoax". The Wichita Eagle.
  12. ^ Manna, Nichole (January 9, 2018). "Family says son killed by police in 'swatting' was unarmed, didn't play video games". The Wichita Eagle.
  13. ^ a b "Wichita Police Officer who fired deadly shot in 'swatting' call testifies in court". KWCH-12. May 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Burgess, Katherine (January 9, 2018). "Swatter was still talking to 911 at least 16 minutes after Wichita man was shot". The Wichita Eagle.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Wichita City Council hears concerns about deadly officer-involved shooting on 'swatting' call". KWCH-12. January 10, 2018.
  17. ^ "Swatting victim's mother to police: Please let me see my son". CNN. January 10, 2018.
  18. ^ "Serial prankster arrested in fatal Kansas police shooting 'rented out his swatting services to other gamers as revenge and claims someone gave him the wrong address' that led to an innocent man's killing". The Daily Mail. December 31, 2017.
  19. ^ "Suspect in deadly 'swatting' call in Kansas held without bail in Los Angeles". The Los Angeles Times. January 2, 2018.
  20. ^ July 2018 Press release announcing federal charges
  21. ^ Press release announcing federal charges from U. S. Attorney for the District of Kansas
  22. ^ "Man who made fatal swatting call in Wichita is guilty of 51 federal charges". The Manhattan (KS) Mercury. November 13, 2018. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  23. ^ "Gov. Colyer signs Andrew Finch Act into law". KSN. April 12, 2018. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  24. ^ [1]H.R.5204 - Andrew T. Finch Memorial Act of 2018
  25. ^ [2]H.R.156 - To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for enhanced penalties for the transmission of misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to trigger an emergency response