An instance of swatting has led to the death of a Wichita man. A California native with a criminal history has been arrested for setting off the events.
A fatal “swatting” incident in Wichita, Kansas, has renewed a national debate about who is to blame in incidents of this nature. “Swatting” refers to the situation when someone calls in a false hostage situation at the residence of a live streamer or someone else whose residence is known online in a case of a prank gone horribly wrong. The live streamers are often big personality video game players or YouTubers who have a large number of followers and viewers, prompting online trolls to “swat” them for entertainment or even vengeance over petty online squabbles.
This particular incident of swatting in Wichita led to the death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch, who was not even the target of the fake hostage situation tip given to the police. Late last Thursday, police surrounded the home of a man who was believed to have called dispatch to inform them that he had killed his father and was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint. This, however, was not the case. Finch, who was a fast-food employee and friend of the intended swatting victim, answered the door and was shot by a seven-year veteran who discharged his gun.
Police have charged the person who made the initial dispatch call, who was more than 1,000 miles away from the site of the incident. Tyler Barriss, a 23-year-old California native with a history of making false threats via phone, is being held on felony charges. The specific charges have yet to be revealed. Barriss spent two years in California jail back in 2015 due to calling in a false bomb threat to ABC studios, and was let go in August after spending time in jail for also breaking a protection order.
With swatting being a somewhat recent phenomenon, legislation has only recently been introduced to help convict those online perpetrators hiding in the dark corners of the web. The bill introduced by Democrat Katherine Clark of Massachusetts would impose a maximum life sentence on fatal instances of interstate swatting.
With the rise of the computer, swatting is just one of a number of ways the internet has enabled criminals and allowed them to evade arrest by executing the crime from thousands of miles away. With each new fatality, the need for more legislation becomes apparent in a world where our online presences are vulnerable from attack by anyone, all over the world.
Suspects have been charged and convicted in nonfatal swatting incidents in 2017 already, so it is clear that the public and government alike have seen the need for action in regard to this issue. The issue at hand, however, is a question of responsibility. The mother of the victim has said that both the swatter and the shooting officer should be held responsible.
Is she right? Or does the person pulling the trigger have more or less culpability in cases of this nature? According to reports, the involved police did not identify themselves in the incident. Finch could very well still be alive had he known the nature of the noise he heard outside. Instead, a prank gone horribly wrong has killed an innocent young man.