Crime & Courts

‘Please let me see my son’s lifeless body,’ mother of fatal swatting victim begs city

Update 5:15 p.m.: A spokeswoman for Sedgwick County government says the body of Andrew Finch was released to a local funeral home at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Kate Flavin said no one from the Regional Forensic Science Center, which had Finch’s body following last week’s fatal shooting, “received a request to view the body.”

No county official or county facility was included in a Tuesday letter from Lisa Finch, pleading for her son’s return so his family could bury him.

“The Sedgwick County Coroner has the sole authority to release the body of a death investigation,” Wichita Police Department spokesman Paul Cruz said in an e-mailed statement. The coroner “makes the decision to have the body transported to the coroner’s facility or release the body to the family. On Sunday, WPD left a message to the family and emails have also been sent to their attorney regarding this issue.”

Flavin said a body’s length of stay at the regional forensic science center varies based on a number of factors, including the time it takes to perform an autopsy and toxicology screens. “Every case is different,” she said.

Original story: The mother of a 28-year-old man killed by police sent to his home on a fake emergency call says she still hasn’t seen her son’s body.

Lisa Finch, in a letter to Wichita police and the city’s mayor, begged for Andrew Finch’s body to be immediately returned to his family so they can give him “a proper funeral service and burial.”

RELATED STORIES: ‘Swatting’ suspect Tyler Barriss waives extradition to Kansas | What charges could the suspect face in swatting hoax that ended in death? | Wichita swatting death should spur Congress to act, lawmakers say | Police release ‘swatting’ call, video of man being shot to death as a result of hoax | Call of Duty gaming community points to ‘swatting’ in deadly Wichita police shooting

“It goes without saying that our family is devastated by what has happened,” she wrote in the Jan. 2 letter to Mayor Jeff Longwell and Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay. The letter was sent to The Eagle by Andrew Stroth, a Chicago civil rights attorney representing the Finch family.

“What cannot go without saying is why Wichita City leadership is compounding our grief and sorrow, by keeping my son from us?” she wrote. “Please let me see my son’s lifeless body. I want to hold him and say goodbye.”

Longwell’s office received the letter Wednesday afternoon and would be reviewing it, a spokeswoman for the office said. The mayor did not immediately comment.

Wichita police spokesman Officer Charley Davidson said Wednesday that he could not comment on the letter because the department hadn’t received a copy yet.

Stroth did not immediately return phone messages left by The Eagle on Wednesday. The letter also was sent to members of the Wichita City Council and Gov. Sam Brownback.

The letter comes not quite a week after a Wichita police officer shot and killed Andrew “Andy” Finch after he opened his front door and stepped out to see why there were patrol car lights flashing outside of his home. Police on Dec. 28 rushed to the south Wichita house —1033 W. McCormick — after a caller told a 911 emergency dispatcher that he had killed his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage at gunpoint.

Finch was an innocent victim and was not the intended target of the hoax, known as swatting. A police official has said an officer fired after seeing Finch raise then drop his hands near his waistband. Finch was unarmed.

A California man, 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, is suspected of making the fake emergency call. He waived extradition in a Los Angeles courtroom Wednesday morning and is expected to arrive in Wichita within the next two or three weeks, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday afternoon.

In an interview after the shooting, Lisa Finch said she also wanted the officer — identified only as a seven-year veteran of the force — held accountable.

Swatting is a term used to describe a fake report of violence or threats made in an attempt to draw an immediate, large law enforcement presence to an address. The harassment tactic has gained traction in the online gaming community in recent years.

Lisa Finch, in the letter to the city, calls her son’s killing by police unjustified. The police chief, she wrote, came to her home three days after Andrew Finch’s death to talk, but said she left the meeting with questions.

“My heart was not eased by the unannounced visit, neither was it eased by the empty hand extended and the questions left unanswered,” she said in the letter. She wrote that she wants more information about what happened, including:

▪ The names of the officer who shot and killed her son

▪ The names of the other officers who responded to her home that night

▪ Why officers handcuffed and interrogated her family and seized electronics from the house

▪ What protocol and training Wichita police have in place for responding to swatting calls

▪ Whether the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office is considering criminal charges against the officers

In an interview with The Eagle on Tuesday evening, Ramsay said the police department had no policies or specific training in place to deal with swatting.

Bennett, the district attorney, said Wednesday his office “is evaluating every aspect” of the officer-involved shooting that left Finch dead.

“The investigation is ongoing,” he said by e-mail.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

Related stories from Wichita Eagle