AP

'Swatting' Prank Call Leads To Tragedy In Wichita

Friday, December 29, 2017


By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH and JIM SALTER,  Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police and the FBI are investigating whether an argument over an online game prompted a prank call that led to a house where an officer shot and killed a Kansas man who apparently wasn't involved in the dispute.

Police say the death Thursday in Wichita, Kansas, may have been the result of a practice called "swatting," in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said an officer responded to a report that a father had been killed and that a shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage, The Wichita Eagle reported.

At a press conference, Deputy Chief Troy Livingston told assembled reporters police arrived at the house, a 28-year-old man who came to the front door and opened it. Initially the man was complying with law enforcement officers, but reached behind himself at which point an officer believed he was retrieving a weapon. The officer opened fire wounding the man who was rushed to the hospital as law enforcement determined there was no immediate danger to the public in the house. The man was pronounced dead at the hospital. The man hasn't been identified by police, but Lisa Finch told the newspaper that the victim was her son, Andrew Finch. She said he was unarmed and was not a gamer.

Livingston told reiterated to reporters during the conference that police were called to the home after being "given some misinformation." Audio from the original phone call received by police dispatch was played during the conference. Livingston also stated Wichita Police are conducting an investigation into the phone call as well as the individual who placed it to deliberately mislead police with false information thereby endangering public safety, he also confirmed they are working with the FBI in the investigation. 

The officer who fired the shot — a seven-year veteran of the police department — has been placed on administrative paid leave, which is department policy.

Dexerto, an online news service focused on gaming, reported that the series of events began with an online argument over a $1 or $2 wager in a "Call of Duty" game on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments including one involving "Call of Duty."

"We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life," Shannon Gerritzen, a UMG vice president, said in an email to The Associated Press. "Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We are doing everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter." She declined to disclose other details.

The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to disguise their number. An FBI supervisor in Kansas City, Missouri, which covers all of Kansas, said the agency joined in the investigation at the request of local police.

In other cases of apparent swatting, three families in Florida in January had to evacuate their homes after a detective received an anonymous email claiming bombs had been placed at the address. Additionally, in a seperate case, law enforcement officers were forced to open fire using rubber bullets on a 20-year-old Maryland man in 2015 after a fake hostage situation was reported at his home.

Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015 — then was herself the victim of swatting. Armed officers in 2016 responded to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at Clark's home.