A feud between two Call of Duty players led to the death of a 28-year-old Kansas man, who was shot and killed by police after a fraudulent 911 call sent a SWAT team to the man’s private home. The news was first reported by local newspaper The Wichita Eagle, which cites numerous now-deleted tweets in which Call of Duty players take responsibility for participating in or observing the intended prank, which came after an argument about an online wagered match reportedly worth just $1.50. One player allegedly provided a fake address to someone with a history of calling in fake threats. That person, later identified and arrested by the LAPD, proceeded to embroil the innocent stranger in the feud, according to independent cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs.
The move, known as swatting, involves a disgruntled internet user calling in a fake threat of violence, typically a murder and hostage situation invented by the caller, and doing so anonymously by using software to mask their identity and location. That results in an excessive display of force from police, who have no other information to go on and typically respond to such calls with an extraordinary amount of aggression.
It’s unclear whether an act of swatting has ever resulted in someone’s death before, but numerous people in the past have been severely injured in such situations over online feuds that often do not involve the victim in any way whatsoever. SWAT teams also have a disturbing history of killing innocent people in their own homes, regardless of the source of the threat. The alleged perpetuator of the swatting attack, who went by the Twitter handle “SWauTistic” before changing his handle and then deleting his account entirely, reportedly admitted to calling in a false bomb threat against the Federal Communications Commission over the net neutrality decision, according to Krebs. Police today identified the man as 25-year-old Los Angeles resident Tyler Barriss.
In this case, Wichita local Andrew Finch, whose family members say did not play video games and was a father of two young boys, answered his door only to face down a SWAT team-level response. Allegedly, one officer immediately fired upon Finch, who later died at a hospital. It’s unclear why Finch, who is said not to have had a weapon on him, was fired upon. The Wichita Eagle reports that the police department is investigating the issue, which occurred late Thursday night.
Update at 5:47PM ET, 12/29: Added additional information from independent security journalist Brian Krebs’ report on the swatting and identity of the perpetrator.
Update at 2:48PM ET, 12/30: Added additional information regarding the LAPD’s identification and arrest of the suspect. The headline has also been changed to reflect the new information.