A prank call inspired by feuding fans of war shoot-em-up Call of Duty led to the fatal shooting of a 28-year-old father of two.
Andrew Finch was caught up in a hoax call to emergency services in his home town of Wichita, Kansas that saw armed police surround his house.
Audio of the call revealed a man claiming to have shot dead his father with a handgun then dousing his family home in petrol.
Police confirmed that the “nightmare” scenario was a “deadly encounter” that stemmed from a joke gone wrong.
Armed police responded to the call and surrounded Mr Finch’s home address.
Police said Mr Finch failed to follow their instructions and was shot dead after seeming to reach for his waist. It transpired later that the victim was unarmed and unrelated to either man involved in setting up the hoax.
‘Swatting’ is a popular prank that surfaced on internet message boards and is reportedly a particularly common threat among online players of Call of Duty.
It involves calling the emergency services with a faked report of violence at someone else’s address in an attempt to get an armed police response.
It derives from the US police’s armed response team, known as SWAT, an abbreviation of Special Weapons and Tactics.
The irresponsible actions of the prankster put people and lives at risk. The incident was a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department.
Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim. Had the false police call not been made, we would not have been there.
We don’t see it as a joke, it’s not a prank. It heightened the awareness of the officers and we think it led to this deadly encounter.- Troy Livingston: Deputy Police Chief, Wichita Police Department
Cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs, who has himself been the victim of swatting, tracked down the perpetrators via Twitter.
On social media, Krebs revealed that the fatal shooting stemmed from a dispute that had escalated between two Call of Duty gamers.
One of the parties to that dispute, allegedly using the Twitter handle @SWauTistic, threatened to swat another user who goes by the nickname 7aLeNT.
@7aLeNT dared someone to swat him, but then tweeted an address that was not his own.- Brian Krebs: Investigative Journalist, KrebsOnSecurity.com
Mr Krebs said that the perpetrator then contacted him online and told him “bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that.”
Police have since arrested a 25-year-old man in Los Angeles named as Tyler Barris in relation to the shooting incident.
Local reports said that Barris had previously been charged with making bomb threats to a radio station in 2015.
The phenomenon of swatting has been on the rise for some time now and the FBI estimates there are more than 400 cases annually.
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