Last month, a 26-year-old California man named Tyler R. Barriss was given a 20-year prison sentence for making false emergency calls to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including one incident that resulted in the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old Kansas man named Andrew Finch after an online feud between two other individuals over a $1.50 bet in the Call of Duty: WII video game.
This is considered the longest sentence ever to be given due to “swatting,” which is defined as reporting a false emergency to get law enforcement, specifically a SWAT team, to arrive and arrest a person as a means of retaliation. A person reports an emergency to 911 dispatchers, then law enforcement responds to the scene, often at the expense of both the individual in question and the authorities.
Barriss was contacted by a gamer from Ohio to “swat” a Wichita gamer. However, they used an old address, which led authorities to Finch, who wasn't part of the video game dispute. From Los Angeles, Barriss contacted Wichita police in December 2017 to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at the given address. Upon opening the door, an unnamed Finch was shot by a police officer.
Is Swatting Against the Law in California?
In January 2014, California made it illegal to engage in swatting. However, these incidents do not often involve death.
If a person is convicted of falsely reporting an emergency in the state, it is punishable by reimbursing the city departments involved in the incident up to $10,000 for responding to the scene. However, if the crime involved serious injury or death, then additional charges such as aggravated assault or murder may be brought.
The bill was inspired by incidents in Los Angeles where celebrities were being targeted by swatters.