A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charges three men in a “swatting” incident where false reports to police and emergency services set off a chain of events that led to an unarmed Wichita man being shot and killed by police.
According to U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister, the indictment alleges the defendants are responsible for hoax calls to Wichita police on Dec. 28, 2017, that ultimately led to the death of Andrew Finch. The following men are charged:
Tyler Barriss, 25, Los Angeles, Calif., making false/hoax reports to emergency services (count 1), cyberstalking (count 2), making interstate threats (count 3), making interstate threats to harm by fire (count 4), wire fraud (counts 5 through 11) and conspiracy to make false/hoax reports (count 12).
Casey Viner, 18, North College Hill, Ohio, wire fraud (counts 5 through 11), conspiracy to make false/hoax reports (count 12), obstruction of justice (count 13), and conspiracy to obstruct justice (count 16).
Shane Gaskill, 19, Wichita, Kan., obstruction of justice (count 13, 14 and 15), conspiracy to obstruct justice (count 16), and wire fraud (count 17).
The indictment alleges the incident began when Viner in Ohio and Gaskill in Wichita, Kansas were playing a Call of Duty game online as teammates and got into an argument.
Viner later asked Barriss to “swat” Gaskill at an address provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that the address Gaskill provided – 1033 W. McCormick in Wichita – was an old address where Gaskill no longer lived, but Gaskill did and Gaskill also kept giving the old address to Barriss.
Barriss made and received a series of calls from California in which he talked to the Wichita Police Department’s Security Desk in City Hall and the 911 emergency dispatcher for Sedgwick County. Barriss disguised his phone number to make it appear he was calling from the 316 Wichita area code.
Barriss falsely claimed there was an emergency at 1033 W. McCormick in which he (Barriss) had shot and killed his father, that he (Barriss) was holding his mother and little brother at gunpoint in a closet, that he (Barriss) was considering suicide, and that he (Barriss) has poured gasoline all over the house and was considering lighting it on fire. Wichita police thus responded to the address believing they were dealing with a shooting, a hostage situation, a suicidal gunman, and the possibility of arson.
The indictment further alleges that, after Mr. Finch was shot and the defendants realized the result of the “swatting,” they talked about (in online conversations and direct messages) deleting their electronic messages and communications to protect themselves from prosecution. Defendant Viner wiped and factory reset his iPhone.
If convicted, the defendants face the following penalties:
- Making a false/hoax report to emergency services resulting in death of another: Up to life in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.
- Cyberstalking resulting in death of another: Up to life and a fine up to $250,000.
- Threatening to kill a person or damage property by fire: Up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Making a threat in interstate communications: Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Wire fraud: Up to 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Conspiracy to make a false report: Up to five years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Obstruction of justice: Up to 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.
- Conspiracy to obstruct justice: Up to 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.