Three charged in deadly Call of Duty swatting case

May 27, 2018 2 min read

(Photo credit: John B. Snyder)

Three people are looking at federal charges in the US in connection with the death of Andrew Finch, 28, outside of his property after a SWAT team was called to his house. Tyler Barriss, who went under the handle of "SWAuTistic", has already been charged with making the hoax call that led to Finch's house being "swatted". He already has a history of calling in hoax bomb threats to schools and a local TV station, which saw him spend two years in a county jail.

The co-accused, Shane Gaskill and Casey Viner, had an argument over a mere $1.50 bet on a Call of Dutygame. Viner decided to enlist Barriss' services to get back at Gaskill, given that Barriss was, at the time, allegedly operating as a swatter for hire. This would be bad enough, but Gaskill apparently tricked the pair by giving out his old address, a house which his family had since rented out to another family.

Cue a SWAT team arriving on scene at the Finch household, believing that the occupant had murdered their father, had the rest of their family at gunpoint and was threatening to douse the entire property in petrol. Andrew Finch was understandably unaware of what was going on and reached for his belt when he was stopped by the police, resulting in an officer shooting him. Andrew Finch was unarmed, and died from his gunshot wound. 

Barriss has now been charged with involuntary manslaughter, a charge the prosecution goes for when there is sufficient evidence of causing death by way of reckless or grossly negligent behaviour. Presumably, Barriss is not facing a murder charge because it is unclear that he intended the death of Finch or whoever he swatted. He is still looking at up to eleven years in prison under Kansas sentencing laws.

Viner and Gaskill are looking at similar charges and sentences, given that they facilitated the shooting of Finch but presumably did not intend to kill or severely injure him, or there is probably not enough evidence of such intent. The police officer in question may also be facing charges for shooting too rashly, but this has not yet been decided.

The case is being looked at by tech journalists around the world as an example of how criminal law is responding to new and unusual behaviour involving gaming and streaming: not just because it is a clear-cut case of the worst possible outcome from swatting, but because of the utterly senseless and horrifying nature of the circumstances surrounding the death.

Three charged in deadly Call of Duty swatting case screenshot