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Suspected “Swatting” Caller Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter for Deadly Kansas Incident

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A suspect has been charged in the SWATting incident that left a Kansas man dead last month. Tyler Rai Barriss of California was charged with involuntary manslaughter and interference with law enforcement for allegedly making the false SWAT call.

The incident reportedly began after an online Call of Duty match, when two members of the losing team began to fight with each other. As the argument escalated, one of the two allegedly asked a third party, who went by the name ‘Swautistic’ on Twitter, to threaten to “swat” the other. Swatting involves calling in a false report of ongoing violence at the intended victim’s house, so that the local police department will descend with a SWAT team. In this case, the threatened player reportedly upped the ante by offering up an address in Wichita, Kansas, basically daring Swautistic to make the call.

However, that address did not belong to the player, but to a man named Andrew Finch and his family. When the SWAT team arrived at the house, believing they had an active hostage situation, an officer fatally shot Finch after he allegedly reached for his waistband. “Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim,” said Wichita Police Department Deputy Chief Troy Livingston. “If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there … We don’t see it as a joke, it’s not a prank. It heightened the awareness of the officers, and we think it lead to this deadly encounter.”

In a phone call with The Los Angeles Times, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett explained the reasoning behind the charges against Barriss: “In Kansas, a defendant can be charged with murder when prosecutors believe that a death has been caused due to the commission of certain felonies. But causing a false alarm is not among the ‘inherently dangerous felonies’ listed under the state’s felony-murder statute, so prosecutors sought the manslaughter charge instead.”

Barriss is also wanted by the Canadian police in relation to a similar swatting call made in Calgary, just six days before the deadly Kansas incident.

As summarized above, however, Barriss did not act alone. He was reportedly asked to make the call by someone else and then given the false address by another person. Bennett said that there are other “potential suspects” in the case who may eventually face charges, but prosecutors are still weighing that decision. “As you might imagine,” he said, “anytime computers and gaming machines are involved, there’s a fair bit of forensic analysis involved.”

Now, as I mentioned in my initial article, this problem extends beyond Barriss and the callous swatting phenomenon. There are also serious questions about why the officer responded with deadly force, and why U.S. police officers in general kill so many more civilians than their counterparts in other countries. Prosecutors are still deciding whether to bring charges against the officer who actually shot Finch; for now, the officer has only been placed on leave.

Everything about this case just makes me deeply sad, TMSers. What a preventable death.

(Via The Los Angeles Times and Vox; image: Shutterstock)

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