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Swatting, the asinine behavior of gamers reporting crimes at the addresses of other gamers, can have serious consequences. Take the case of Andrew Finch, first the victim of an elaborate swatting prank in which a murder and hostage situation were called into his Wichita, Kansas home, then the victim of a police officer's bullet.
Police are putting the blame for Finch's death squarely on the alleged prankster, Tyler Barriss, a 25-year-old Los Angeles man who was arrested in connection with the killing. But who's ultimately responsible?
As reported by Ars Technica, now-suspended Twitter account "SWAuTistic" took credit for the swatting but denied any responsibility for the death. When contacted by security reporter Brian Krebs, SWAuTistic admitted to being the victim of swatting attempts himself, and said that was the reason he decided to start swatting others.
SWAuTistic also allegedly told YouTube "Drama Alert" he was contacted by an irate Call of Duty player involved in a dispute with another player, requesting the second player be "swatted." "Sure," SWAuTistic responded, "I love swatting kids who think that nothing's going to happen."
Additionally, SWAuTistic admitted to graduating to swatting from simple bomb threats: "Bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that ... But I began making $ doing some swat requests." ABC is reporting that Glendale police arrested a 22-year-old man with the name Tyler Barriss for making bomb threats to KABC-TV back in 2015.
But plenty of people, Finch's family included, have questioned why, false police report aside, he was shot at all. Wichita Police claim officers were on high alert, after the 911 caller said he had shot his dad in the head, was holding his mother and brother in the closet, had dowsed the home in gasoline, and had a black handgun and wanted to kill himself. When Finch (who was not even the target of the swatting, as the call got the address incorrect) opened the door to the house, police officers ordered him to "Walk this way," and when he raised his arms above his head, he was shot once, dying almost instantly.
While the officer who shot Finch allegedly thought he reached for his waistband, he was, in fact, unarmed. Finch's mother, who was arrested and interrogated along with other family members the night of the shooting, claims police have yet to identify the name of the shooter or release Finch's body to the family, almost a week after he was killed. "When will our family be allowed to see Andy?" she wrote to Wichita's mayor Jeff Longwell and Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, along with other questions regarding the return of confiscated items from the home and whether charges against the officer will be filed.