In recent years, swatting has led to everything from accidental shootings of police officers to targets being shot themselves by rubber bullets. This past week, a man was allegedly shot and killed over just such a "prank," supposedly over a Call of Duty dispute.
This news comes to us from The New York Times, who is reporting that 28-year-old Andrew Finch of Wichita, Kan., was shot and killed after a false report was made claiming a violent dispute had broken out at his residence, complete with gunfire, hostages, and threats of arson.
For those unfamiliar with swatting, it's a term used to describe what some consider a prank. It frequently happens because of online rivalries or disputes, and it's also frequently tied to people playing video games (though not always). Often the attempt is to have the swatting call orchestrated while the target is streaming, so the whole thing is caught on camera.
According to the initial report, some sort of dispute between Finch and another party was tied to Call of Duty, at which point the other party decided to make a swatting call. They contacted the local authorities and made a false report. When authorities responded, they surrounded the residence. Finch's mother has stated that her son heard noise out in the yard and went out to investigate. From the perspective of the officers, Finch was asked to raise his hands upon exiting the house. The report states that Finch did not comply and one officer, fearing he was reaching for a gun, opened fire and killed the man.
As Deputy Chief Troy Livingston told The Times, the police would have never been at Finch residence had the false report not been made. As for the fatal shooting, it is being investigated.
A 25-year-old Los Angeles resident named Tyler Barriss has been arrested in connection with the swatting call. Previous penalties for swatting hoaxes gone bad include prison time, but none of those instances have ended in a fatality. Two years ago, a similar situation ended with a man shooting and wounding a police chief who he assumed was a burglar, though the chief was investigating the residence following a false report. Another man was also shot with rubber bullets and severely injured following a swatting call on his residence.
Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum told The Times that this is a "worst-case scenario" for any police department. They want to treat all calls as serious, and apparently, Barriss' call was convincing enough to garner a very serious response.