AP

20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting

Mar 29, 2019, 11:30 AM | Updated: 11:34 am
FILE - In this May 22, 2018, file photo, Tyler Barriss, of California, appears for a preliminary he...
FILE - In this May 22, 2018, file photo, Tyler Barriss, of California, appears for a preliminary hearing in Wichita, Kan. Barriss, who pleaded guilty to 51 charges related to fake emergency calls and threats will be sentenced in federal court in Wichita, Friday, March 29, 2019, and could face decades in prison. His case drew national attention to the practice of "swatting," a form of retaliation in which gamers get police to go to an online opponent's address. One hoax emergency call by Barris led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man. (Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP, File)
(Bo Rader/The Wichita Eagle via AP, File)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making bogus emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over $1.50 bet in the “Call of Duty: WWII” video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats.

The 2017 death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch drew national attention to the practice of “swatting,” a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address. Authorities say an Ohio gamer recruited Barriss to “swat” a Wichita gamer, but that the address they used was old, leading police to Finch, who was not involved in the video game or the dispute.

Barriss admitted he called Wichita police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28, 2017, to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at that Wichita address. Finch answered the door, and an officer shot the unarmed man.

Barriss’ prosecution in Wichita consolidated other federal cases that had initially been filed against him in California and the District of Columbia involving similar calls and threats he made. Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence , while the defense had sought a 20-year term.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recognized swatting as an emerging threat as early as 2008, noting it had become commonplace among gamers.

The intended target in Wichita, Shane Gaskill, 20, and the man who allegedly recruited Barriss, Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, are charged as co-conspirators. Authorities say Viner provided Barriss with an address for Gaskill that Gaskill had previously given to Viner. Authorities also say that when Gaskill noticed Barriss was following him on Twitter, he gave Barriss that old address and taunted him to “try something.”

Viner and Gaskill pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Viner has notified the court he intends to change that plea at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Gaskill’s trial has been delayed to April 23 amid plea talks with federal prosecutors.

Finch’s family has sued the city of Wichita and the unidentified officers involved. Police have said the officer who shot Finch thought he was reaching for a gun because he moved a hand toward his waistband. Prosecutors declined to charge the officer.

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20 years for man behind hoax call that led to fatal shooting