Fatal Swatting Prank Suspect Arrested in Los Angeles

Swatting may have been spurred by an argument over a game of 'Call of Duty'

Friday afternoon, authorities arrested a 25-year-old man in Los Angeles in connection to a "swatting" incident possibly spurred by a match of Call of Duty, which then resulted in the fatal, police-involved shooting of a third man not connected to the online argument, Wichita Police confirmed to Glixel Saturday. 

Tyler R. Barriss was arrested at 3:15 p.m. and is being held without bail as a fugitive from justice, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office booking told Glixel. Wichita Police tell Glixel they are working with Los Angeles Police and the FBI on the case. Andrew Finch, 28, was fatally shot by Wichita police Thursday night after they received a call from someone claiming to live at the home and saying they had killed their father, doused the home in gas and planned to set it on fire with their mother and brother still inside. None of that was true.

Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said in a press conference Friday night that someone called the security desk at City Hall at 6:18 p.m. about a domestic violence situation involving their parents. A few minutes later, the man called 911 to say he had accidentally killed his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage in a closet, with a loaded gun. He later said he wouldn't let them leave, had doused the home in gas and planned to set it on fire and kill himself. A few minutes after saying that, police arrived at the home of Finch. In a police body-cam video released by the department on Friday, you can see Finch walk out of the home with his hands up. He appears to lower his hands and you can hear a single shot. In the video, you can also hear an officer shouting "show me your hands" and "walk this way" before the shot is fired. Livingston says the officer who fired  believed the man pulled a gun from his waistband and was raising it to point it at police. "Fearing for those officers' safety on the north side, he fired one round," Livingston says.

After the shooting, police discovered four other people inside, but no body or any hostages. "During the investigation, we learned that an unknown individual had placed this police false call," Livingston says during the press conference. "We believe this is a case of swatting, which is the act of deceiving emergency services into sending a police response to another person's address. We are continuing to follow up on the individual we believe responsible for making this call and will follow up with our federal partners."

More than a dozen people on Twitter say the swatting incident stemmed from a feud between two Call of Duty players over a $2 bet. "I DIDN'T GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDN'T DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISN'T MY PROFESSION," one person wrote on Twitter after others claimed he made the swatting call, one newspaper reports. That person's account was suspended overnight. According to Twitter posts, the target of the swatting threat gave the other gamer a false address, sending police to Finch's home instead of his own. "Someone tried to swat me and got an innocent man killed," the person reportedly said on Twitter.

Andrew Finch's mother, Lisa Finch, told The Wichita Eagle that her son wasn't armed when he answered the door Thursday. She also said he wasn't a part of the gaming community. "He doesn’t play video games," Finch said. "He has better things to do with his time."

This isn't the first time Barriss has been arrested in connection to a fake 911 call. In October 2015, police in California arrested Barriss for making bomb threats to KABC-TV. He was charged with two felony counts of false report of a bomb to an agency of business and one felony count of criminal threats. According to Los Angeles Sheriff's Office records, Barriss was sentenced to 972 days in the adjudicated case. Because someone died in this incident, it's possible that Barris could face stiffer charges in connection to the fake calls, including reckless endangerment or manslaughter.

Thursday night's shooting is still under investigation. It's often difficult for law enforcement to prosecute internet crimes like swatting or doxxing, but some members of Congress are trying to change that. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN), and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) introduced the Online Safety Modernization Act of 2017 earlier this year. If it passes, it will help local and federal law enforcement investigate and prosecute online crimes like sextortion, doxxing, swatting, and revenge porn. Former game developer and U.S. House of Representatives candidate Brianna Wu also said on Twitter she'll work to make swatting a federal crime if elected.

The officer who shot Finch, a seven-year veteran, is on paid administrative leave. Finch leaves behind two children ages 2 and 7.

"We don't see this as a joke," Livingston says. "It's not a prank. The irresponsible acts of a prankster put people’s lives at risk. The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department. Due to the action of a prankster, we have an innocent victim. If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there."

UMG Gaming, the online platform where the Call of Duty game was being played competitively for a small cash wager, released a statement on Friday via Twitter stating they would work with the investigating authorities. "We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life. Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We will do everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter."