- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2019

Tyler Barriss, who admitted placing a bogus emergency call that resulted in police fatally shooting a Kansas man in a “swatting” prank turned tragic, received a 20-year prison sentence Friday by a federal court judge.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgreen announced the punishment for Barriss, 26, during a sentencing hearing held in Wichita federal court, roughly two miles from where police shot and killed Andrew Finch, 28, outside his home in December 2017.

Barriss, of California, acknowledged in court documents that he made a hoax call that resulted in the Wichita Police Department being deployed to Finch’s residence in anticipation of responding to a murder and hostage situation. Finch walked outside when he heard the police and was fatally shot by an officer, according to investigators.

In his plea agreement, Barriss said he placed the bogus call during a dispute between two video gamers, Casey Viner 19, and Shane Gaskill, 20. The gamers had a falling out and, according to prosecutors, Mr. Viner asked Barriss to “swat” his rival — a prank that typically involves reporting a false emergency in hopes of provoking police to swarm a specific location.

Mr. Gaskill dared Barriss to carry out the prank and then provided him with his former address. Barriss called the police and authorities arrived at the scene moments later and fatally shot Finch, who did not know any of the men involved.

Barriss pleaded guilty last year to related counts including making a false report resulting in a death, cyberstalking and conspiracy and faced between 20 and 25 years behind bars. Mr. Viner and Mr. Gaskill have pleaded not guilty to related counts and are awaiting trial.

“I hope that this prosecution and lengthy sentence sends a strong message that will put an end to the juvenile and reckless practice of ‘swatting’ within the gaming community, as well as in any other context,” said Stephen McAllister, a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Wichita. “Swatting is just a terrible idea. I also hope that today’s result helps bring some peace to the Finch family and some closure to the Wichita community.”

Prosecutors declined to charge the officer who fatally shot Finch. The victim’s family is suing both the Wichita police and city.

“If I could take it back, I would,” Barriss said at Friday’s sentencing hearing, the Wichita Eagle reported. “I’m just so sorry.”

Barriss acknowledged making other “swatting” calls throughout the country as part of his plea agreement, including incidents at the D.C. headquarters of both the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, among others.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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