Los Angeles police have arrested a man they believe made a call to police in Kansas that led to a fatal police shooting.
Tyler Barris was apparently involved in a dispute with someone over the “Call of Duty” online game. He called police, telling them he had shot his father in the head and was holding his mother hostage. Barris then gave police what he thought was the address of his nemesis. Instead, it was the address of Andrew Finch of Wichita, KS. Finch was a father of two and was not involved in gaming.
Officers surrounded the home bracing for a hostage situation. When the man identified as Finch went to the door police told him to put his hands up, and an officer fired after the man moved his hand towar d the area of his waistband, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said.
Finch was unarmed, he said. “Due to the actions of a prankster we have an innocent victim,” Livingston said.
The officer who fired the single shot, a seven-year veteran of the department, is on paid leave pending an investigation.
“We believe this incident is a case of ‘swatting,'” Livingston said. He said the shooting was “a tragic and senseless act” and that “the incident is a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department.”
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.”
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.
Barriss was taken into custody in South Los Angeles, and had been living at a transitional recovery center, sources said.
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.
Barris will be charged with murder and, if convicted, spend many years in jail. But what of the police officer who shot an unarmed man?
Since only one shot was fired, we can assume all other officers present did not see a threat. Further, reaching for one’s waistband is not, by itself, a threatening gesture. Of course, we don’t have all the facts. And it’s very possible the officer who fired the shot believed that whoever was holding his family hostage may have been looking to commit suicide by cop. There is no more dangerous situation for an officer than to come face to face with someone who wants to die and doesn’t care if he takes a police officer or two with him.
So the situation is more complex than it appears. Hopefully, when the investigation into the shooting is complete, the police department and prosecutor will not be swayed by the possible public reaction to whatever they decide.