Three men are facing criminal charges after a "swatting" incident that left one man dead in December 2017. Tyler Barriss, 25, was already awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in Wichita, Kansas for placing a hoax phone call to police that led to the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch.
"Swatting" is the act of making a false emergency report to provoke a massive police response. The name originates from the law enforcement unit SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), which uses specialized and military equipment and tactics. In response to the rising popularity of "swatting," many states have enacted legislation making it a crime. In California, a "swatter" may be required to reimburse the city departments that responded to the fake report up to $10,000.
Federal prosecutors have charged Barriss with making false reports to emergency services, cyberstalking, making threats to harm, six counts of wire fraud, and conspiracy to make a false report; in addition to the involuntary manslaughter charges he faces in Sedgwick County, Kansas. The federal indictment also charges Casey Viner, 18, of North College Hill, Ohio; and Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita with wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Viner has also been charged with one count of conspiracy to make false reports.
The incident stems from an argument between Viner and Gaskill, who were playing the online video game "Call of Duty." In anger, Gaskill posted a home address online and challenged Viner to swat him. Viner then asked Barriss to swat Gaskill at the address posted. Barriss, who was in Los Angeles at the time, called authorities in Wichita and falsely claimed he had shot his father and was holding others at gunpoint at the address Gaskill posted.
When police arrived on the scene, they shot and killed Finch after he exited the residence while reaching for his waistband. Finch was later discovered to be unarmed. The officer involved in that shooting will not face criminal charges, but has been placed on administrative leave while an internal review of the shooting is conducted.
Barriss has confessed to making the phone call that led to Andrew Finch's death. Barriss had previously been arrested in Southern California for making hoax phone calls to elementary schools and a television station. Canadian authorities had also issued warrants for Barriss' arrest several days before Finch's death in connection with hoax phone calls targeting an unidentified woman.
All three men allegedly deleted their communications once they discovered Finch had died. Viner reportedly wiped and reset his iPhone. Viner has also been considered a suspect in several Cincinnati swatting incidents.
Barriss faces life in prison for the cyberstalking and hoax phone call charges. Viner and Gaskill could face up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction of justice charges. Barriss has told police that he knew the risks of making the false police report, and described Finch's death as "unfortunate" and the "worst case scenario."