Several gamers said Monday that they hope whoever made the fatal swatting call to Wichita 911 is convicted of a crime — and they say the caller doesn’t represent their community as a whole.
“We very much look at it as a bad thing that happened to a community, and even worse an innocent bystander who isn’t even a gamer,” said Ramsey Jamoul, CEO at Wichita eSports, which hosts semi-professional video game tournaments. “I definitely think as a whole we’re pretty disheartened.”
Tyler R. Barriss was arrested in Los Angeles last week, suspected of making the call to Wichita that sent police to 28-year-old Andrew Finch’s home. Swatting is falsely reporting a serious ongoing crime — like a killing, hostage situation or bomb threat — to draw a large police presence to an address. It has gained traction in recent years among online gamers.
In this instance, police went to the address given by the swatting caller and shot and killed Finch after he opened the front door. Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston has said Finch raised and lowered his hands after stepping onto the porch. An officer who feared Finch might be reaching for a weapon in his waistband fired at him. Finch was unarmed.
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Finch wasn’t even a gamer, his family has said. A gamer told an interviewer on YouTube that a feud had developed between two gamers over a $1.50 wager and an accidental, virtual “killing.” One of the gamers gave what he thought was the other person’s address to another man, who made the false call to the police. The gamer later discovered he’d been given a false address.
Andrew Winningham, eSports coordinator at Butler Community College, said gamers are debating whether police were justified in shooting Finch. However, they’re largely unified in condemning the person who made the 911 call.
Gamers are watching closely to see what happens to Barriss, Winningham said.
“If he gets off or gets a misdemeanor charge, I think it might encourage more people to do it (swatting) and that’s a scary idea,” Winningham said. “The caller definitely needs to be made an example of.”
Swatting is generally regarded as unsportsmanlike behavior, Jamoul said. At times it can also be considered cheating.
“Now it’s led to something far worse than just a prank,” he said.
The swatting incident has struck home for gamers since it affects them directly, Winningham said. In particular, it shows the repercussions of online actions in the offline world. It has made many consider being more careful with their offline identities, he said.
Swatting has become more common as gamers have begun online streaming. While it doesn’t usually affect the average gamer, swatters often target users of the live-streaming platform Twitch, said Anthony Vu, president of Shocker eSports and a student at Wichita State University.
For people who make money from live streaming, swatting has become a real threat, he said.
What surprises Vu is that this time, that threat happened so close to home.
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