A police officer in Wichita shot and killed a man after responding to a prank call about a fake shooting and hostages.
The trend, known as “swatting,” is a type of cyberbullying. According to Cyberbullying.org, a research center directed by Dr. Sameer Hinduja, swatting happens when someone anonymously calls the police with a fake threat, using the victim’s address, which can cause a police SWAT team to appear at one’s doorstep. The website says, “this has most often stemmed from online gaming arguments, and has even left victims injured by police.”
An alarming trend that reportedly took the life a 28-year-old man in Wichita, Kansas, on Dec. 28. Police officially haven’t revealed the identity of the victim, but CNN affiliate KAKE reported that his relatives identified him as Andrew Finch. Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston confirmed the accident during a press conference on Friday.
Police officials released the call they received to the public, where an unidentified man told authorities he had shot his father in the head and had taken his siblings and mother hostage.
"We were arguing and I shot my dad in the head and he's not breathing," the caller said, adding that he had a handgun, and that he "poured gasoline all over the house.”
"We learned through that call that the father was deceased, shot in the head. So that's the information we were working off of," Livingston said during the press conference. "Our officers came here preparing for a hostage situation. Several got in position. A male came to the front door, and one of our officers discharged his weapon."
Livingston called the shooting “tragic” and a “nightmare for everyone involved.”
"The irresponsible actions of a prankster put people's lives at risk," he said. "The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department. Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim. If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there."
According to CNN, Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles, Calif., has been arrested as a suspect.
It’s unclear if this is the first time someone has been killed as a result of swatting, but injuries have reportedly been sustained.
In 2015, a policeman reportedly shot a 20-year-old in Maryland with a rubber bullet in response to a fake SWAT call. ABC affiliate WJLA reported on the incident, and interviewed FBI special agent Jennifer Leonard who called the “swatting” trend a “growing problem.”
“We are seeing a widespread issue," Leonard said in the interview. “The one piece of advice we give to the average citizen is if they are threatened over the internet and someone says 'I am going to SWAT your house' to let their local police department know, so if they are responding then they will know that there is a threat out there, and they will try to make a telephone call into the house and see what the situation is before responding with a SWAT team."