Back in September of 2015, I addressed the issue of “swatting” in “Swatting Lite.” It has long been a favorite pastime of sociopathic gamers:
“Swatting,’ for those unfamiliar with the term, is essentially attempted murder.One calls the police to report a hostage situation or other serious crime that would cause the police to respond with a SWAT team. In ideal circumstances, any police agency would first take steps to determine if there was a real threat, particularly a threat requiring the call out of a SWAT team. Unfortunately, that’s not the way some agencies roll, and innocents have been placed in deadly danger by false swatting reports.
Properly done, a patrol officer would be sent to the address, and observe from a distance for a time. The police could call the inhabitants and ask one to come outside to speak with the officer. Failing to do such basic, everyday proper tactics leads to greatly increased danger, not only for the police, but for innocent citizens.
One would hope that no police agency would be so hasty or lacking in tactical sense, but experience teaches otherwise. If malicious people couldn’t reasonably believe the police would overreact, there would be no point to making a false swatting report.
On December 28, 2018, a swatting call was made to the Wichita, KS Police. I initially wrote of that incident in Wichita: A Deadly Non-SWAT Swatting (to find every article in this series, enter “Wichita” in the SMM homepage search bar):
Apparently, at 1818 on December 28, a police substation received a call from a man saying he had just shot his father in the head. The call was not made via 911, which is common in swatting cases, making it harder to identify the caller. The caller remained on the line for some time, claiming he was holding other family members hostage, was pointing a gun at them, that he had poured gasoline throughout the home, and was thinking of lighting it. That information made its way through at least one, possibly two, 911 dispatchers, and was eventually dispatched to the Witchita Police.
Officers responded and surrounded the residence. The WPD does have a SWAT team, but Chief Gordon Ramsey confirmed there was not sufficient time to call them out. With very few exceptions, SWAT teams are comprised of officers from various divisions in a law enforcement agency, and often, from a number of geographically close agencies. Each individual officer must be called, and must drive, from wherever they are, to the location. The TV/movie convention of a high-tech SWAT van holding the entire team and their equipment arriving and disgorging the team, ready to immediately act, is a TV/Movie convention. The situation was handled by patrol officers on duty at the time. Finch was shot at 1843.
The Police urged Andrew Finch, an entirely innocent man, outside his home. Hearing conflicting commands shouted at him from three directions, he was shot by an officer with an AR-15 from a distance of 40-50 yards. The rifle was apparently not equipped with a scope, and the officer could not possibly have determined if Finch represented a threat. Finch was unarmed and had nothing in his hands. There were multiple officers much, much closer.
In the second article on this incident in January of 2018—Wichita: A Deadly Non-SWAT Swatting 2—I wrote:
In the Finch case, only a single shot was fired. That there were other officers closer to Finch suggests there should have been a multitude of shots, unless none of them saw a reason to fire. If that were the case, I suspect they were all surprised by the gunfire—even shocked—and more surprised when Finch collapsed on the porch. This, would explain why none of them fired, though the likely immediate collapse of Finch may have deprived them of a target, not that that factor always deters officers from firing “me too” shots. Thompson is correct, however. I would not want to be the shooter asked why he, alone, thought it necessary to fire at the moment he did. I suspect after firing a single shot, he realized how badly he’d screwed up, and did not fire again.
What is interesting, and horrifying, is Finch was apparently not hit by the bullet, but by shrapnel when the round missed and fragmented on impact with the porch on which Finch was standing. In April of 2018, in “Wichita: A Deadly Non-SWAT Swatting 3,” I summed up what had been learned to that point:
The officers had no idea who they shot or why. They had not bothered to so much as make a phone call to speak to anyone inside the house. Someone came out and didn’t respond properly to multiple, confusing, contradictory commands from multiple directions, so they shot him.
The prosecutor decided not to charge the officer, despite the very clear evidence he could have had no cause for shooting:
The officer should have been charged. None of the police did due diligence in handling this call. Rather than taking simple, basic steps to determine the validity of the call, they all rushed to the scene expecting a shoot out, and finding a two story home when they were told it was a single story home, no one was apparently bothered by the discrepancy. No one bothered to ask ‘do we have the wrong house?’
And if they had the wrong house, what else did the dispatcher get wrong? Competent police officers know dispatchers get things wrong all the time. Often, it’s not their fault/sometimes it is. The police response was a black comedy of errors, resulting in the death of Andrew Finch. The officer that killed Finch was not charged. I ended that article:
There is one potentially good thing to come out of this case: it will serve, in future police academy basic classes, as an example of how not to handle this kind of call. Unfortunately, people often have to die to provide those lessons.
Now there is resolution, of a sort, as Fox New reports:
A California man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday after making fake emergency calls to authorities across the country which led to the fatal shooting of a Kansas man by police.
Tyler R. Barriss, 26, admitted last November to calling Wichita police from Los Angeles in late 2017 to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at the Kansas home where 28-year-old Andrew Finch lived. He pleaded guilty to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats.[skip]
Authorities said Finch was not involved in the dispute nor playing the ‘Call of Duty: WWII’ video game when he answered the door. Police said an Ohio gamer recruited Barriss to ‘swat’ – or report a false emergency call to get authorities to descend on an address.
However, the address they used was old.
This is particularly disturbing:
The intended target in Wichita, Shane Gaskill, 20, and the man who allegedly recruited Barriss, Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, are charged as co-conspirators.
Authorities say Viner provided Barriss with an address for Gaskill that Gaskill had previously given to Viner. Authorities also say that when Gaskill noticed Barriss was following him on Twitter, he gave Barriss that old address and taunted him to ‘try something.
The gamer’s arrogant stupidity has claimed another victim:
Tragedy has struck again in the family of Andrew Finch, the man shot to death by Wichita police in aninstance of swatting a year ago.
Finch’s niece, Adelina Finch, 18, shot herself in her south Wichita apartment late Wednesday, according to Lisa Finch, Andrew’s mother and Adelina’s grandmother. On Thursday, she was in intensive care at a local hospital and not expected to survive, Lisa Finch said. [skip]
Lisa Finch said she blames her granddaughter’s suicide attempt on the events of Dec. 28, 2017, when Andrew Finch, 28, was shot to death by Wichita Police Officer Justin Rapp, one of several officers responding to a fake call of a murder/hostage situation at the Finch home.
‘Because Adelina was made to step over his dying body and she had to hear him breathe,’ Lisa Finch said. ‘And she’s been going downhill ever since. She didn’t know how to handle it.
The civil suit filed by Finch’s family has not yet been settled.
This kind of tragedy is, thankfully, not nearly as common as some would have us think. Thoughtless idiots endangered live. I wonder to what degree drugs–particularly pot–was involved? A professional police response could easily have prevented the death of Andrew Finch. We are fortunate that this is usually the case across America. Rather than becoming panicked and shooting first and asking questions later, most police officers are calm and careful. They know bullets fired can’t be called back; there are no do overs.
The supervisors on the scene should have known better. They should have been on the phone to the dispatcher, confirming every bit of information possible. A single story vs. a two-story home should have been a substantial red flag. They should have slowed things down and controlled events, including directing their officers. Instead, events controlled them and an innocent man was murdered by the people who thought they were saving lives.
We do not know if the officer that killed Finch has been disciplined in any way, nor do we know if the supervisors on the scene have been disciplined. We do not know what, if any, changes the Wichita Police Department made in training or procedures.
What we do know is the vital importance of hiring the most intelligent, capable and psychologically sound people possible to be police officers. Sadly, diversity, and hiring people only barely smart enough, is the current trend, and to disastrous effect.