A man has been arrested after a father-of-two was killed in a “swatting” prank in Kansas.
A Wichita police officer shot and killed Andrew Finch after a prank caller – suspected to be 25-year-old Tyler Barriss – reportedly told authorities Mr Finch had killed his father and was holding hostages inside the man’s home.
Authorities later learned that the call was a hoax, known as “swatting,” in which people falsely report an emergency to authorities that requires a police response, usually by Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, teams.
A law enforcement official who earlier confirmed Mr Barriss’ arrest said the shooting stemmed from a dispute over the “Call of Duty” video game. The official was not authorised to discuss the investigation publicly, however.
Mr Finch, 28, was killed during a standoff with police minutes after they received the hoax call, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said during a news conference.
Online gamers have been previously been accused of wasting police time and endangering the public with prank calls, and authorities are now searching for the caller who was responsible for instigating the deadly callout, Mr Livingston said.
Shortly after 6pm on 27 December a call was made from a man who claimed he had just shot his father in the head and that he was holding his mother and little brother hostage.
“I already poured gasoline all over the house, I might just set it on fire,” he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the call published by The Wichita Eagle.
Wichita police officers responded, surrounding a house on the city’s west side, Mr Livingston said.
“As the incident unfolded, a 28-year-old male opened the front screen door and stood in the doorway or just outside that doorway,” he said.
“Officers gave him several verbal commands to put his hands up and walk towards them.”
Mr Finch was unarmed and followed commands to raise his hands but then failed to keep them raised as instructed by police, Mr Livingston said, and an officer feared he was drawing a gun. An officer opened fire and shot once.
Police entered the house and found no one dead or injured and no hostages inside, Mr Livingston said.
Mr Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, told The Wichita Eagle her son had heard movement outside and was shot by officers when he opened the door to investigate.
The shooting “is a tragic and senseless act. The irresponsible actions of a prankster put people’s lives at risk,” Mr Livingston said. “The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved.”
“The person who made the phone call took my nephew ... two kids’ father,” Mr Finch’s aunt, Lorrie Hernandez-Caballero, told the Eagle.
“How does it feel to be a murderer? I can’t believe people do this on purpose.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to go towards Mr Finch’s funeral costs.
The FBI estimated that 400 such cases of “swatting” occur annually with many of the prank callers using some sort of caller identification spoofing software to disguise their phone numbers.
Agencies contributed to this report