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Man Pleads Guilty to Charges in Deadly Swatting Prank Call

Police, however, still shift away responsibility for killing unarmed, innocent Wichita man.

Tyler BarrissPOOL/REUTERS/NewscomTyler Barriss, 27, of Los Angeles will be going to federal prison for a nasty prank "swatting" call in 2017 that sent police in Wichita, Kansas, to the home of a stranger and ended with an officer fatally shooting Andrew Finch, 28.

Finch was unarmed and standing on his porch when he was shot by police. He was not involved in any criminal behavior and didn't even know Barriss. Barriss, disgruntled from a wager over a game of Call of Duty, was attempting to send a SWAT team (lying about a violent hostage situation) to the house of one of his fellow gamers as a form of retaliation. But he had the wrong address.

Police say they had no idea the call was fake when they arrived at Finch's home. Finch, hearing the commotion outside, went out on his porch to see what was happening. A police officer shot him from across the street, claiming Finch ignored his commands. Finch died, likely the first person to be killed in one of these dangerous prank swatting calls.

Barriss has a lengthy history of phoning in threats and credit fraud, and he's pleading guilty to a whole host of nasty behavior besides this one call—51 charges in all. The prosecutor is recommending a 20-year sentence.

Barriss should go to jail and should be punished for his role in Finch's death and his other threatening behavior. But throughout all of this, police appear to still be refusing to publicly accept any sort of responsibility or consider what they could do differently to prevent another unnecessary fatal shooting from happening. The Wichita officer who shot Finch, Justin Rapp, was cleared of responsibility in April, with the district attorney determining that the shooting was reasonable based on the information the officer had at the time.

Fundamentally, this grants police the authority to shoot innocent people when responding to prank calls, and that's just a terrible way to deal with what happened. It feeds the very dangerous narrative that it's acceptable for police to kill as long as they are afraid. And that incentivizes police to say that they were afraid or believed that something bad was about to happen ("We thought he was reaching for his waistband" reared its ugly head in this case) in order to justify poorly thought out and deadly decisions.

For the kicker, as part of the plea deal, Barriss has to send letters of apology to Finch's family—and also to the police and dispatchers he tricked. It certainly says something about our deference to authority that the Wichita Eagle's reporting of the agreement notes the apology letters to the police and dispatchers before Finch's actual family.

CORRECTION: This story originally misspelled the victim's name. It is Andrew Finch, not Fitch.

Photo Credit: POOL/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • sarcasmic||

    A police officer shot him from across the street, claiming Fitch ignored his commands.
    .
    .
    The Wichita officer who shot Fitch, Justin Rapp, was cleared of responsibility in April, with the district attorney determining that the shooting was reasonable based on the information the officer had at the time.

    Lesson learned: If some stranger yells commands at you from across the street in the dark, you better do what they say because they might be a cop who will kill you for failure to obey.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The lesson here is that if you shoot before you have any sort of situational awareness you can't be held responsible.

  • sarcasmic||

    I mean the lesson for those of us who want to survive, not the lesson for those who want to kill.

  • Juice||

    Only if "you" are a cop.

  • aajax||

    God help you if you are hearing impaired or have bad eyesight.

  • aajax||

    God help you if you are hearing impaired or have bad eyesight.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    During the hostage situation, an unarmed suspect left the residence. While the suspect was outside, a bullet was projected from a gun, and the suspect and the bullet occupied the same location in space and time. Bleeding from a vital organ was initiated and handcuffs appeared on the suspect's wrists. The suspect died rather than submit to questioning.

    I mean, really, no one is to blame when shit like that happens.

  • ||

    "The suspect died rather than submit to questioning."

    "Didn't answer any questions without pleading the 5th." sounds like a great euphemism.

  • Sevo||

    Mistakes happened
    The passive voice was engaged
    Nice weather, right?

  • Jerryskids||

    Too bad Fitch wasn't a black guy, then maybe his life would have mattered.

  • aajax||

    What's that supposed to mean?

  • Rich||

    as part of the plea deal, Barriss has to send letters of apology to Fitch's family

    FTS. How about as part of the punishment, Barriss has to support Fitch's family?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Good idea. The 13th Amendment explicitly allows charging restitution from perpetrators. Note the plural.

  • Agammamon||

    Because Fitch never had a family to support.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He's a chinless basement dweller. Literally. Support his family with what?

  • Hank Phillips||

    This is a great idea! Blame the idiot for murder committed by a cop against an innocent citizen--to hell with convicting BOTH of them. This means the First Responders™ who murdered the black security guard can get completely off the hook by blaming whoever called for help! Izzis a great country or what?

  • Bubba Jones||

    I can understand why a cop might not be convicted on the basis of such an event, but I don't understand why they aren't fired (aside from the cynical reasons).

  • ipsquire||

    Because you would deprive the people of the valuable lessons learned by Ofc. Rapp at great personal distress and cost (I mean it was so bad the perp sent him an apology, and Ofc. was brutally barred from working the streets he loves, forced to be paid the same salary to sit at a desk an practice passive voice writing). Rapp deserves a promotion if anything. Officer-involved shooting experience FTW.

  • Brandybuck||

    Wonder if he'll prank the bubbas in prison.

  • Dillinger||

    prank call guy w/no authority over the cops goes to federal prison when cops shoot Wichita resident?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Yeah. Fraud that leads to someone being killed is no big deal, right?

  • Kivlor||

    Doubly not a big deal if you were literally committing fraud with the intent to incite an armed home invasion and get someone killed. Definitely no big deal at all. I don't know why he's been charged with anything.

  • Dillinger||

    if that's how you want to read it. nobody shot an unarmed man except the guy who did.

  • Rossami||

    I agree that Barriss should pay for his crime. But it is a travesty of justice that the cop who actually committed the murder is not doing time right beside him.

  • Agammamon||

    Barriss, disgruntled from a wager over a game of Call of Duty, was attempting to send a SWAT team (lying about a violent hostage situation) to the house of one of his fellow gamers as a form of retaliation. But he had the wrong address.

    No. No. No.

    *A different pair of people* (who are awaiting trial) were the ones that got pissed at each other in a game match.

    Viner, who was in Ohio, asked Barriss, who was in California, to swat Gaskill, who was in Wichita. Gaskill found out Barriss was stalking him and dared Barriss to carry out the swat. Gaskill fooled Barriss, however, by claiming to live at an old address he had since moved from.

    Bariss was basically a third party contractor - a hitman. He wasn't a gamer (at least here), SWATTING was his *hobby*.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well this clarifies things and makes it clear that Bariss was railroaded.

    JUSTICE FOR BARISS!!!

  • Eddy||

    He may as well have forged his victim's name on a letter insulting a mafioso, and put the victim's address on it.

  • ||

    Anymore, the mob tends to make sure they kill valid and valuable targets. You've gotta make it count when you could go to jail for that shit.

  • Ken Hagler||

    Calling the cops on someone who hasn't done anything that justifies deadly force isn't a prank, it's attempted murder--or actual murder, in this case.

  • Kivlor||

    It should be very, very concerning to every normal and sane American, that we live in a society where calling the police on someone is legitimately used as a way to contract assassinations.

    Honestly, this is a case where justice would only be served by the public hanging of the officer who shot an unarmed man in his own home for the crime of answering his door, alongside the man who intentionally called the cops hoping this would happen, and the man who paid the guy to make the call. Preferably after all 3 have been publicly whipped at a post.

    If you want to prevent this, make sure that the punishment is so painful and so public that everyone will remember it, and no one would think to try it again.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Calling the cops on someone period is attempted murder, because deadly force is always on the table with cops. Always.

  • sarcasmic||

    Yep. They expect total compliance, and they can use lethal force if you refuse. Look at how this shooting was justified. The victim didn't obey commands that were given from across the street. At night. You shitting me? The cop shouts orders at someone from across the street, presumably in the dark, and then kills the guy when he fails to obey? And that's justified? Fucking fuckity fuck.

  • chipper me timbers||

    What a piece of shit this guy is.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Rule Zero:
    Never, ever, call the cops unless you want someone to die.

    It may not happen, but really, is it worth the risk?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Tyler Barriss, 27, of Los Angeles will be going to federal prison for a nasty prank "swatting" call in 2017 that sent police in Wichita, Kansas, to the home of a stranger and ended with an officer fatally shooting Andrew Fitch, 28.

    This is good. We need that glaring klieg light turned away from the people who are so quick to pull the trigger on anything that moves.

  • Intelligent Mr Toad||

    RE: "The prosecutor is recommending a 20-year sentence."

    The prosecutor is off by an order of magnitude. Why not a 200-year sentence?

  • DenverJ||

    You know who else sent armed government agents to people's houses in order to murder them?

  • DenverJ||

    Janet Reno?

  • Uncle Jay||

    "Deadly swatting prank?"
    That must've been one big fly swatter.

  • Tionico||

    We learn here that the prank caller/murderer "is from Los Angeles".

    Whenever I've called 911, they somehow already know where I am. Been way out of town and they know my location, Before I give them my landline number from which I'm calling, THEY ask me of my address is ________ _ _ -",

    So WHY on earth did the 911 dispatch NOT catch that the caller is from half the nation away, and question that? Something SO supid simple, yet they didn't bother? What, to quick to get the hired gun at the scene?

  • Tionico||

    My state, where open permitless carry of handguns in public is legal, used to have a horrible problem with coppers descending on some guy in a restaurant or park carrying. Or, sometimes, a concealed gun is momentarly exposed then the wind moves a covering shirttail aside, then lets it fall back and cover.Man with Gun calls were far too common. The armed knew their rights, but still got arrested, their guns taken... only to have the prosecutor/courts later throw it all out.. AFTER the guy's spent time in the GreyBar Hotel for naught.

    State's AtG finally drafted a letter and sent it to EVERT law enforcement agency, 911 call centre management, prosecutors, etc, explaining that these are NOT violetions, and NO ONE should be arrested for simply allowing their gun to be seen by others. It took a while, but it finally went away as a problem.

    EDUCATE the 911 operators AND the coppers. Ask questions."What's THAT is not a crime, don't call on that again. Got it? "
    Had this 911 dispatch asked what colour the house is, which room has the hostage, is there a front fence/gate, they would quickly learn that the caller is making it up. They keep railing about more "common sense gun laws", but how about some public employees employ a little bit of COMMON SENSE, especially when lives are at stake?

  • Agammamon||

    Had this 911 dispatch asked what colour the house is, which room has the hostage, is there a front fence/gate, they would quickly learn that the caller is making it up.

    How? The dispatcher doesn't know what the target house looks like. The caller just boldly lies - how are you going to know he's lying?

  • Agammamon||

    Because of a neat little confluence of technology and regulation - which together lead to legal *and easy*call-spoofing.

    Because the phone networks are required to carry all competitor's traffic without impediment, phone companies can't do anything about calls that appear to come from, say, disconnected numbers (at a minimum).

  • LMinAppleton||

    I'm sick of hearing from conservative talk show hosts how the police are so wonderful. Perhaps that was true years ago. But let's face it, an ever increasing number of police today are nothing more than trigger-happy jack-booted thugs in blue uniforms.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    He should be serving 20-yrs for each of the 51-counts, consecutively.

  • aajax||

    This stuff is inevitable when every nut case in the country can be expected to be armed and dangerous. If gun owners were all Muslims, the Second Amendment would be gone.

  • BenjaminTheDonkey||

    If you killed a family member of mine, why the hell would I want a letter from you? It makes a crime even more absurd when the perps get all weepy and remorseful about.

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