25-year-old Tyler Barriss was arrested in a hoax 911 call that resulted in an unarmed man being killed by police. While in South Los Angeles, Barriss made a hostage threat call to Kansas police alleging it was happening at the home of 28-year-old Andrew Finch. The hoax call was made after two men had a dispute over a wager of $1.50 during an online tournament of Call of Duty. This was also a case of mistaken identity, as “one of the gamers gave what he thought was the other person’s address to another man, who made the false call to the police. The gamer later discovered he’d been given a false address.” Neither the caller nor the deceased were one of the gamers.
Barriss, during the call, “claimed that his father was shot in the head, and that he was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint,” according to police audio. When officers arrived to the scene, they were expecting a hostage situation. When Finch went to the door, officers told him to put his hands up. After finch put his hands up for a short moment, he then brought it back down which led to a police officer shooting him. Finch was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The seven year veteran officer who fired the single shot is now on paid leave.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief, Troy Livingston, stated that the shooting was “a tragic and senseless act” and that “the incident is a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department.” The mother of the victim is deeply hurt, stating that “that cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place.”
Barriss is the same individual who made a bomb threat call to ABC station KABC in 2015, which led to the evacuation of the station in Los Angeles. Barriss was arrested for this and received a two-year sentence. In this hoax hostage situation call, Barriss said in the 911 call with dispatcher “They were arguing and I shot him in the head and he’s not breathing anymore. I’m just pointing the gun at them, making sure they stay in the closet, my mom and my little brother. I already poured gasoline all over the house. I might just set it on fire.” He also kept giving authorities Finch’s address during the call.
Many in the public are closely watching what happens to Barriss, because if he gets a simple misdemeanor, then others may begin falsely calling the police (swatting). Possible Federal charges for Barriss include obstruction of justice, attempted obstruction and wire fraud. Possible state charges under Kansas law include unintentional but reckless second-degree murder and reckless involuntary manslaughter.
It seems that Barris may be able to escape some charges because he did not cause police to shoot Finch, but he was the reason for police being there. There is currently no federal charge for “swatting” and this case may cause the justice system to reevaluate how it handles situations like this. The challenge prosecutors must face in this case is not about mental state but rather causation.
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