A Los Angeles man who called in a fatal “swatting” prank on a man he didn’t know is facing felony charges — but the cop who pulled the trigger may not face any at all.
A 25-year-old gamer from LA named Tyler Barriss allegedly called Wichita, Kansas police and told them there was a hostage situation after getting in a disagreement with another player in an online game of Call of Duty: WWII, a realistic first-person shooter video game. Barriss gave the police the address of what he thought was the home one of his Call of Duty competitors. But the address belonged to an unrelated man named Andrew Finch, who was shot and killed by one of the responding officers.
Barriss is now facing a felony false alarm charge in Kansas, which can be brought for knowingly misinforming a fire or police department of a fake emergency.
Swatting, a cruel prank popular in gaming circles, involves misleading authorities into thinking that a situation is urgent enough to warrant the cops to send a SWAT team to someone’s house. Despite the inherent danger, there have been no reported instances, prior to this one, of people dying during the pranks. But swatting victims have been seriously hurt by SWAT teams who think they’re responding to particularly urgent situations.
The swatting, in this case, was allegedly prompted by a disagreement over game that reportedly had a $1.50 wager on it.
Barriss has been charged in Kansas, though he’s being held without bail in Los Angeles. He’ll likely be out in Kansas to face trial by early February, according to the Wichita Eagle, and could wind up spending up to 34 months in prison.
The police officer who allegedly pulled the trigger has not been charged, though Finch’s mother is calling for charges against the officer.
“Justice for the Finch family constitutes criminal charges against the shooting officer and any other liable officers as well as damages against the city of Wichita for the policies and practices of its Police Department,” attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.
The Wichita police department claims that Finch was shot after he came to the door and moved his hand toward his waistline. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” according to TIME.
Neither the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office nor the Wichita police would directly comment about whether the officer would be charged, or the officer’s current employment status.
Barriss could also end up facing a more serious second degree murder charge for unintentionally causing death by reckless actions. But Kansas authorities may be counting on it being easier to convict him on the false alarm charges, which Elizabeth Cateforis, a clinical associate professor at Kansas University said fit the crime perfectly.
“Second-degree murder would be a really uphill battle,” she added. “Getting from a phone call with charging the person with liability for a death — it’s a stretch.”
Cateforis stressed, too, that there could be more charges brought against Barriss as more information about the case comes to light.
The police department has since released the audio of the 911 call and a video of the incident on its Facebook page.
This isn’t the first time Barriss has swatted. His Twitter handle, until the incident, was “SWauTistic,” and he was known within the Call of Duty community for pulling this kind of prank. Cybersecurity news website, KrebsonSecurity, reports that Barriss changed his handle to “GoredTutor36” after the incident.
Barriss even bragged on Twitter that he’d called in the bomb threat that interrupted the Federal Communications Commission hearing on net neutrality in December.
And, after the incident, Barriss reportedly denied any responsibility for Finch’s death.