Wichita, Kan. – Kansas police are investigating whether an argument over an online game prompted a prank call that led to a house where an officer shot and killed a man who apparently wasn’t involved in the dispute.
Police and industry officials say the tragic death Thursday in Wichita, Kansas, may have been the result of a practice called “swatting,” in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said the shooting happened Thursday while an officer was responding to a report that a father had been shot in the head and that a shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage, The Wichita Eagle reports.
When police arrived at the house, Livingston said a 28-year-old man who came to the front door was shot and died. The man hasn’t been identified by police, but Lisa Finch told the newspaper that the victim was her son, Andrew Finch, and that he was unarmed and was not a gamer.
Livingston didn’t say what caused the officer to shoot the man.
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,” Shannon Gerritzen, a UMG vice president, 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.
The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to disguise their number.
Lisa Finch told the newspaper that her son was murdered by police. She said he went to the door after hearing something, then screamed and was shot. She said the family was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and handcuffed. She said her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle and that no guns were found in the home.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” she asked. “That cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place.”
Livingston says police are investigating whether the call that led to the shooting was a prank. Officer Paul Cruz told AP that more information would be released at a news conference later Friday.
The officer who fired the shot — a seven-year veteran of the police department — will be placed on administrative paid leave, which is department policy.
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.