Shooting death in video game leads to a real one in Kansas

A virtual shooting death in an online video game led to the real-life shooting death of a Kansas man in December, acc...

Posted: Jan. 31, 2018 7:19 AM
Updated: Jan. 31, 2018 7:19 AM

A virtual shooting death in an online video game led to the real-life shooting death of a Kansas man in December, according to court documents.

Tyler Barriss, 25, was charged with involuntary manslaughter earlier this month for his alleged role in a "swatting" incident that ended with Wichita Police fatally shooting 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his front door.

Barriss, who lives in Los Angeles, admitted to placing a prank call reporting a hostage situation at Finch's address, according to a police affidavit. Barriss told police he made call at the request of a gamer who was upset at a teammate for accidentally killing him in a video game. Finch was not involved in the online dispute, and his family said he did not play video games.

Barriss has not yet entered a plea. His lawyer, Brad Sylvester, declined to comment on the affidavit's details. However, he said the unique circumstances raise plenty of "unusual" questions about legal culpability.

"The way it is tried and the outcome will likely set a precedent for how future similar cases are charged," he said in an email.

The affidavit provides the most complete timeline to date of the December 28 shooting. This is what it says about how the incident unfolded:

Gamer issues call for swatting

A member of the online gaming community told CNN that the dispute stemmed from a muti-player session of "Call of Duty: WWII," a shooting game that emulates combat from a soldier's point of view. The source did not want to give his name for fear of reprisal.

Barriss was not involved in the game but investigators identified two participants. One of them, a gamer in Ohio identified by his Twitter name Baperize, was upset when a teammate in Wichita killed him, according to the affidavit.

As Baperize was "talking trash" to the Wichita gamer, identified in his affidavit by his initials SG, someone posted Baperize's name and information on Twitter.

In turn, Baperize threatened to swat SG. "Please try some s--t," SG responded and posted Finch's address, the affidavit states. It's not clear why SG selected Finch's address.

As another person claiming to be involved in the game told Wichita police, "the person gave the wrong address."

Investigators were contacted by several people who said they saw conversations between Baperize and another Twitter user, SWAuTistic. Barriss later told police the account is his.

Caller reports a hostage situation

Around 6:18 p.m., Sedgwick County dispatch notified Wichita Police of a shooting and possible hostage situation at Finch's address. Dispatchers reported that the caller said he "shot his dad in the head and that he was not breathing."

Furthermore, dispatchers told police, the caller said "he was holding his mom and brother at gunpoint" and "he wants to kill himself and light the house on fire."

Police swarm the home and shoot Finch

Wichita Police officers arrived at the house around 6:23 p.m. and surrounded the residence.

The affidavit says little about the actual shooting, except for this: "Officers observed movement in the residence and began to approach, when an adult male from the residence was shot by Wichita Police at or around 1828 hours (6:28 p.m.)."

Police shot Finch after he moved his hands to his waistline, Wichita police Deputy Chief Troy Livingston said in December.

"Our officers came here preparing for a hostage situation," he said. "Several got in position. A male came to the front door, and one of our officers discharged his weapon."

The calls keep coming in

Meanwhile, dispatch was still providing information from the caller to investigators at the scene, the affidavit says. The caller repeated he had his brother and mom in a closet in the back of the house. He was pointing a gun at them and "he is not going to put the gun away," dispatch told police.

"The calling party stated he had poured gasoline all over the house and is thinking about lighting it," the affidavit says.

At 6:46 p.m., "dispatch stated they were no longer in communication with the calling party."

The house is cleared and the victim is declared dead

Officers cleared the residence, looking for hostages and found several people inside. "None of them reported being hostages," the affidavit says. No one was found dead, either.

Finch was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead at 7:03 p.m.

His family sued the city of Wichita and the police department over his death.

"While the swatter should be held accountable, this case is about the City of Wichita and a police department with a history, pattern and practice of using excessive and lethal force against civilians," said Andrew M. Stroth, the family's attorney.

"In the sanctity of his own home, Andy Finch was shot and killed and now two small children don't have a father."

The city said it would respond to the lawsuit after it had been served. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the investigation, and the police department has promised a thorough internal review.

"The City of Wichita and WPD officials have great sympathy for those impacted by the reckless behavior exemplified by 'swatting' which created the circumstances which resulted in this death."

Twitter leads to suspect

After the shooting, investigators found references to the incident posted from multiple Twitter accounts, including Baperizer's and one belonging to Barriss under the handle @SWAuTistic.

"That kid's house I swatted is on the news," the affidavit quotes Barriss saying on Twitter. Later, he would say, "I didn't get anyone killed because I didn't discharge a weapon and being a swat member isn't my profession."

Investigators then learned that Baperizer, also known by his initials, CV, is a suspect in swatting incidents in the Cincinnati area, according to the affidavit.

As for Barriss, DMV records indicate his last known address as a homeless shelter in Los Angeles, the affidavit says. He was living there when police took him into custody on December 29 and interviewed him.

The suspect confesses, according to police

Barriss is no stranger to swatting. He told police that he has swatted about 20 homes and evacuated close to 30. He said he does it for the attention, according to the affidavit.

Barriss said "Bape" asked him to swat a guy by the name of SG and gave him the address he used to make the call. Barriss said he went to a library and made two calls to law enforcement in Kansas, one using the library Wi-Fi and another using a VPN. In his police interview, he shared the following script:

"I killed my dad because my mom and dad were arguing, killed my dad, now my mom and my little brother are in the closet now and I'm aiming a gun at them in the closet."

About an hour later, he learned that someone had died, he told police. He admitted to posting on Twitter that he was responsible.

Weeks later, in an interview from jail, Barriss said he wished none of it ever happened. "I never intended for anyone to get shot and killed," he told CNN affiliate KABC. "I just wish I could have rewound somehow and just never done it."

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