Los Angeles police have arrested a man they suspect made a hoax emergency call that resulted in a SWAT police officer fatally shooting a man at his Kansas home, law enforcement officials said Saturday.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston on Friday characterized the hoax call as "swatting" and blamed a "prankster" who called 911 with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at the victim's address.
According to LAPD Officer Mike Lopez, Tyler Barriss, 25, was arrested Friday in Los Angeles on a fugitive warrant. AP reported Barriss is suspected of making the swatting call, according to the LAPD and the Wichita Police Department in statements emailed early Saturday afternoon.
Lopez said Barris was in custody and being held without bail. He had not been charged as of early Saturday afternoon.
Officer Paul Cruz, a spokesman for the Wichita police, said the two city police departments are working with the FBI on the case, but provided no further details including on possible charges or extradition.
Authorities haven't released the name of the man who was killed Thursday, but relatives have identified him as 28-year-old Andrew Finch.
In audio of the 911 call played by Wichita police at a news conference on Friday, a man said he shot his father in the head and that he was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint. The caller, speaking with relative calm, also said he poured gasoline inside the home "and I might just set it on fire."
Several officers arrived and surrounded the home, braced for a hostage situation. When Finch went to the door police told him to put his hands up and move slowly.
But Livingston said the man moved a hand toward the area of his waistband. An officer, fearing the man was reaching for a gun, fired a single shot. Finch died a few minutes later at a hospital. Livingston said Finch was unarmed.
The officer, a seven-year veteran of the department, is on paid leave pending the investigation.
The Finch family on Friday allowed reporters inside their home. Lisa Finch told them her son was not a gamer.
"What gives the cops the right to open fire?" she asked. "That cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place."
Lisa Finch said the family was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and handcuffed after the shooting. She said her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle and that no guns were found in the home.
Dexerto, an online news service focused on gaming, reported that the series of events began with an online argument over a $1 or $2 wager in a "Call of Duty" game on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments including one involving "Call of Duty."
"We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life," UMG spokeswoman Shannon Gerritzen said in an email to The Associated Press. "Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We are doing everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter." She declined to disclose other details.
Police Chief Livingston, speaking at a news conference, said the hoax call was a case of "swatting," in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.
"Due to the actions of a prankster we have an innocent victim," Livingston said.
The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to make it look like they are calling from a local number. An FBI supervisor in Kansas City, Missouri, which covers all of Kansas, said the agency joined in the investigation at the request of local police.
In other cases of apparent swatting, three families in Florida in January had to evacuate their homes after a detective received an anonymous email claiming bombs had been placed at the address.
A 20-year-old Maryland man was shot in the face with rubber bullets by police in 2015 after a fake hostage situation was reported at his home.
Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015 — then was herself the victim of swatting. Armed officers in 2016 responded to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at Clark's home.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer Jim Salter contributed to this report from St. Louis.