Innocent Man Fatally Shot After Online Gamer's 'Swatting' Prank

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What was intended as a "swatting" prank after an online gaming dispute over $2 turned into the fatal police shooting of a 28-year-old Kansas man.

People watch a demonstration of Call of Duty

Authorities are investigating a gamer's "swatting prank" that left 28-year-old Andrew Finch dead earlier this week. The prank was the result of an online argument over a wager, but the man killed was not involved in the gaming community.

"Swatting" is a more recently-developed form of pranking in which a caller dials 911 with a report of a severe police emergency — oftentimes a bomb threat, murder, or in this case, a hostage situation. In many instances swatting can be described as terrorism due to its ability to cause major disruptions, injuries, or deaths. 

"It was a shooting call involving hostages," Deputy Chief Troy Livingston of the Wichita Police Department said in a briefing. "The original call, we were told someone had an argument with their mother and dad was accidentally shot, and now that person was holding mother, brother, and sister hostage. We learned through that call that a father was deceased, and had been shot in the head. That was the information we were working off of."

When the police arrived on scene, they were armed and prepared for what could be a potentially violent confrontation. Finch approached the front door when he was fatally shot. No one else was injured. Livingston did not clarify whether Finch was armed, but the police said they do not believe that he fired at the officers. 

After being wounded, Finch was taken to a hospital in the area where he was later pronounced dead. He was shot by a seven-year veteran of the police force, who has now been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. 

The original phone call is linked back to a Call of Duty gamer, who placed the prank call after getting into a dispute with a fellow gamer over a $1 or $2 wager. As the argument progressed, the caller threatened to call a SWAT team to his house, which is when the targeted individual provided a fake address. 

The gamer who made the call later took to Twitter in a poor attempt to unlink himself to the death of Finch.

"I DIDN'T GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDN'T DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISN'T MY PROFESSION," he stated on Twitter before his account was shut down.

The fellow gamer that the caller had originally targeted also tweeted, "Someone tried to swat me and got an innocent man killed." 

It goes without saying that calling the police with false accusations as a prank is simply never OK. It is a major waste of emergency resources and services and can divert attention away from real emergencies. Not to mention, the clear dangerous implications that come along with calling 911 as a prank, such as risk of injuries, deaths, and psychological harm. It is a form of harassment and can lead to serious consequences for the caller. 

The gamer who made the call may be facing fines or imprisonment, as false reports to emergency services are considered a criminal offense. The investigation is ongoing. Hopefully, in the future, he will think twice before pulling such reckless stunts. 

Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jim Bourg

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