Authorities arrested a 25-year-old man in California for a “swatting” prank emergency call that led to the death of an innocent 28-year-old Kansas man who was shot by police responders on Thursday evening as he stood on his front doorstep.
Tyler Barriss was taken into custody Friday in Los Angeles on suspicion of making up a story about a shooting and hostage situation at a Wichita address halfway across the country. A man by the same name was arrested in 2015 for making a fake bomb threat to an ABC affiliate news station in Los Angeles.
Relatives identified the deceased as Andrew Finch, who was unarmed, Wichita police confirmed.
Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said the incident was the result of “swatting,” a type of hoax associated with online video gamers, where someone makes up a story in a fake emergency call designed to draw large numbers of police to a specific address.
Based on the emergency call, placed at 6:18 p.m. CST, officers dispatched to the scene believed someone at the address had an argument with his mother, shot his father in the head, and was then holding his mother and two siblings hostage as he considered setting the house on fire. Swatters often use techniques to shield themselves from call tracing that might give them away, but it is unclear what method, if any, was used here.
Finch opened the door to a swarm of police shortly after they arrived. Livingston said officers repeatedly gave him verbal commands to raise his hands and walk towards them, but Finch lowered his hands to his waist several times. When Finch moved his hands suddenly upwards, one of the officers believed he had brandished a weapon and fired one shot, the deputy chief added.
The Kansas incident is believed to be the result of a dispute between two “Call of Duty” gamers that originated on Twitter and escalated when one gamer posted an address that was not his own.
Finch had no part in the dispute. Relatives told the Wichita Eagle that he did not even play video games.
A Twitter user who claimed to have initiated the hoax reportedly denied responsibility for Finch’s death, writing, “I DIDN’T GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDN’T DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION.”
Family members told the Wichita Eagle they were handcuffed following the gunshot and taken to a station where they were interviewed by police. They are calling for the authorities to hold the officer who shot him accountable.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” Finch’s mother, Lisa, asked Friday morning. “Why didn’t they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report.”
Livingston called it “a nightmare for everyone involved” at a press conference on Friday.
“Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim,” he said.
The officer who fired the deadly shot was placed on administrative leave, per department policy.