National News

Suspect faces felony charge of fatally 'swatting' man 1,400 miles away

Posted January 3, 2018 9:28 a.m. EST
Updated January 3, 2018 1:56 p.m. EST

— It appears Andrew Finch's "swatting" death began with an online session of "Call of Duty: WWII." It's a violent video game designed to emulate combat as seen from a soldier's point of view.

But no one is supposed to die. Not in real life.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles prosecutors are scheduled to file a warrant that could send Tyler Barriss, the California man suspected of swatting Finch, to Wichita, Kansas, to face a felony false alarm charge.

Swatting is the act of making a false police report -- usually of an urgent or violent crime -- to lure law enforcement or SWAT teams to a location.

A felony complaint filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court lays out the charge that Sedgwick County, Kansas, authorities have filed against Barriss, 25, who was arrested last week.

Responding to a false report of a domestic shooting and hostage situation, allegedly made by Barriss on Thursday, police arrived and fatally shot the 28-year-old Finch after he opened the front door of his family's home.

An officer opened fire on Finch after he moved his hands to his waistline, Wichita police Deputy Chief Troy Livingston said. Finch died later at a hospital.

'He said it was stupid'

A man who claims he's known Barriss since 2015 through the gaming community told CNN that an argument ensued after a "Call of Duty" match and that one of the gamers involved reached out to Barriss to request that he swat the other gamer. The source did not want to give his name for fear of reprisal from the gaming community.

Like many video games, "Call of Duty" has a multiplayer mode that allows gamers around the world to interact online in the same game simultaneously.

Asked why Barriss was given the Wichita address -- Finch's family says he wasn't a gamer, and thus, not the intended target -- the source said he didn't know, but that Barriss "was known in the gaming community for doing stuff like that."

He added, "I was in shock so I messaged him asking him why he'd do that and what's wrong with him and stuff. ... He said it was stupid and he shouldn't have done it, but I didn't care. He's a grown man who's done this stuff before."

CNN has reviewed the messages between Barriss and the source.

Police confirm Barriss was jailed in 2015 for making a bomb threat to a television station, and at least two people who know Barriss say his Twitter handle was @SWAuTistic. The account has now been suspended, but a cached copy of tweets included multiple references to swatting. In a December 22 tweet, he said he was "thinking about swatting" the FBI headquarters.

Mom wants stiff charges

After Wichita police issued a fugitive warrant, Barriss was arrested Friday by the Los Angeles Police Department, some 1,400 miles west of Wichita, Los Angeles Police officer Mike Lopez said.

Prosecutors intend to file a "fugitive from justice warrant" Wednesday, aimed at sending Barriss to Kansas to face charges in Finch's death. They recommend he be held without bail.

"I hope they charged him with something substantial. It should be a crime," the victim's mother, Lisa Finch, told CNN affiliate KAKE.

During the swatting call, Barriss allegedly said he shot his father in the head, his father wasn't breathing, he was holding his mother and little brother in a closet at gunpoint and he might soon set the house ablaze.

"So that's the information we were working off of," Deputy Chief Livingston said. "Our officers came here preparing for a hostage situation. Several got in position. A male came to the front door, and one of our officers discharged his weapon."

Police blame prankster's 911 call

Finch was not armed and nobody was found dead at the home, Livingston said. He called the shooting "tragic and senseless."

"The irresponsible actions of a prankster put people's lives at risk," he said Friday. "Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim. If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there."

But the victim's mother says police share the blame.

"The cops are trying to make this go away and it's not going to go away. People aren't going to let it," Lisa Finch told KAKE.

On Tuesday, Lisa Finch wrote a letter to Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell and Police Chief Gordon Ramsay saying her "heart was not eased" by Ramsay's unannounced Sunday visit, nor by the "empty hand extended and the questions left unanswered."

Among those questions, she said, are: What is the name of the officer who killed her son? Why was her family, including a teen granddaughter, handcuffed after the shooting? And what is Wichita police protocol for swatting calls?

Her lawyer, Andrew Stroth, told CNN this week that the officer who shot Andrew Finch should be held liable, as should the city and police department "because of their policies and practices."

"Swatting is not new, just like prank calling is not new," Stroth said.