News World Gamers’ spat prompts hoax call that ends with innocent man shot dead by police
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Gamers’ spat prompts hoax call that ends with innocent man shot dead by police

A sobbing Lisa Finch dabs at a tear as she tells how her son answered the door and was shot dead b y a SWAT marksman. Bo Rader /Wichita Eagle
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Police in Los Angeles have arrested a man they suspect made a hoax emergency call that resulted in a police officer shooting another man dead in Wichita, Kansas.

Wichita police have said they believe the 911 call which led to the shooting was a case of “swatting” — where hoaxers deliberately make up a false report to get a SWAT team or other police officers to raid an address.

Tyler Barriss, 25, was arrested in Los Angeles on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Wichita Police Department.

Court records showed Barriss was convicted in 2016 on two counts of making a false bomb report to a TV station in Glendale, California, and sent to Los Angeles County jail for two years. Jail records show he was released in January.

Police have not disclosed the name of the man who was killed on Thursday evening, but relatives identified him as Andrew Finch, 28.

Chief Livingston, speaking at a news conference, said the hoax call had claimed an blameless life.

“Due to the actions of a prankster we have an innocent victim,” Chief Livingston said.

An audio recording of the call to 911 was made public by police. In it a man can be heard telling the emergency operator he has just shot his father in the head and is holding his mother and younger brother at gunpoint.

The caller, speaking with relative calm, said he poured petrol inside the home “and I might just set it on fire”.

When asked for his location, he gave Mr Finch’s address.

Several officers arrived and surrounded the home, braced for a hostage situation. When Mr Finch went to the door police told him to put his hands up and move slowly.

But Chief Livingston said the man moved a hand toward the area of his waistband — a common place where guns are concealed. An officer, fearing the man was reaching for a gun, fired a single shot.

Mr Finch died a few minutes later at a hospital. Chief Livingston said Mr Finch was unarmed.

The officer who fired the fatal shot, a seven-year veteran of the department, is on paid leave pending the investigation.

The Finch family on Friday allowed reporters inside their home. Lisa Finch told them her son was not a gamer.

“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” she asked. “That cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place.”

Ms Finch said the family was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and handcuffed after the shooting. She said her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle and that no guns were found in the home.

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.

“We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life,” Shannon Gerritzen, a UMG spokeswoman, said in an email.

“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.

In addition to the 911 call, police also released a brief video of body camera footage from another officer at the scene.

It was difficult to see clearly what happened, but it shows that police were parked across the road from Mr Finch’s house when the shot was fired.

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.

A 20-year-old Maryland man was shot in the face with rubber bullets by police in 2015 after a fake hostage situation was reported at his home.

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 Ms Clark’s home.

-with wires