Tyler Barris, a California man who played a role in a fatal “swatting” incident that led to the death of a Kansas man, has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, NBC News is reporting.
“Swatting,” for those not familiar, is the practice of calling 911 and falsely claiming that someone has, for example, taken hostages and is armed, with the intention of sending a SWAT team to the intended address. As CBS News explains, the practice is believed to have begun in the online gaming community, as a prank. Players would “swat” other players so that the community of players at-large could watch the events unfold live.
And on the night of December 28, 2017, the “prank” turned deadly.
Barris and two other Call of Duty players allegedly got into a dispute over a $1.50 bet, and in the heat of the moment, one of the gamers dared Barris to “swat” him, then gave him a Wichita address. The home at that address was actually occupied at the time by Andrew Finch, who was not involved in the dispute and was not even playing the game.
Barris called the Wichita police, spoofing the source of the call so that the 911 operator would be led to believe that it came from Wichita. Barris claimed that a man at Finch’s address had shot and killed his father, was holding his mother and younger brother hostage, and was planning to set the house on fire, as The Wichita Eagle reported at the time.
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A SWAT team turned up at Finch’s home, and within minutes he was dead under circumstances that remain unclear to this day, having been fatally shot by a member of the team.
It is believed that Finch’s is the first swatting-related death.
The next day, Barris was picked up on an unrelated California charge, and then transferred to Kansas, where he was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Finch case.
An April 2018 Ars Technica report alleged that Barris not only showed little remorse but also violated jail rules by securing a contraband cell phone and posting boasting messages online.
“How am I on the Internet if I’m in jail? Oh, because I’m an eGod, that’s how. All right, now who was talking s**t? Your ** is about to get swatted.”
In November 2018, Barris took a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to 51 charges all stemming from phony emergency calls and other “swatting” incidents, in addition to the fatal Wichita incident. That plea agreement came with a sentence of 20 to 25 years behind bars, and it was handed down in a California courtroom on Friday.
U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said that he hopes Barris’ sentence will send a message that swatting is not a prank.
“We hope that this will send a strong message about swatting, which is a juvenile and senseless practice. We’d like to put an end to it within the gaming community and any other context. Swatting, as I’ve said before, is not a prank.”
The two other men involved in the dispute that led to Finch’s death, identified by The Hollywood Reporter as Shane Gaskill, 20, and Casey Viner, 19, have been charged as co-conspirators. As of this writing, their cases are help up in court as prosecutors and defense attorneys try to hash out plea agreements.