Crime & Courts

Similarity to Wichita swatting call led Canadian police to Tyler Barriss

When the deputy inspector of Calgary’s Police Service listened to the 911 call Wichita police released regarding a false report made on Dec. 28, he said it sounded familiar.

That’s because the same false report was made in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, six days earlier.

Tyler Barriss, 25, is accused of calling 911 in Calgary on Dec. 22 to report that he shot his father and was holding his mom and a sibling hostage. But he was 1,500 miles away in Los Angeles. The woman inside the Calgary apartment was a well-known video gamer who live streams on the service Twitch, according to her social media accounts.

Canadian police haven’t said why they think Barriss allegedly made the call. They said the woman, identified only by her first name, Lisa, had talked with him earlier in the day, but she denies ever having communication with Barriss, according to local reports.

Deputy Inspector Peter Siegenthaler said someone had warned Lisa that she was going to be swatted. When police arrived, she called 911 to tell dispatch what was happening, then she exited her apartment.

Police confirmed the call was a hoax and no one was injured.

A neighbor told the Calgary Herald that more than 20 police cars swarmed the apartment complex for about 30 minutes.

Swatting happens when someone makes a call to a police department with a false story of a crime in progress – often with killing or hostages involved – in an attempt to draw a large number of police officers to a particular address. It’s often related to online gaming, with a goal of the swatting being live-streamed.

At the time, Canadian officers didn’t immediately know who made the call. Siegenthaler told reporters that Barriss “wasn’t on (the department’s) radar.”

“I don’t believe he was a suspect until the Kansas incident,” he said.

Wichita police say Barriss called City Hall at around 6:15 p.m. on Dec. 28 and made the same false report of a homicide and hostage situation — and he told dispatch he was holding a gun and wouldn’t put it down, Deputy Chief Troy Livingston said.

When Wichita officers went to 1033 W. McCormick, Andrew Finch, 28, was inside the home with three other people, including his 17-year-old niece, his family said. Seeing the red and blue flashing lights, he opened his front door to see what was happening.

He faced multiple Wichita police officers, who demanded he put his hands up and walk forward, Livingston said. Finch was shot when he put them to his waist and suddenly raised them again, he said. The only officer to fire a shot was standing in a driveway across the street. The shooting is still under investigation, police have said.

Both Wichita and Calgary police said they believed the information given to dispatch was real.

Deputy Inspector Peter Siegenthaler said the Calgary 911 call was “violently described in a very specific nature.”

“We didn’t have any reason to believe this was not a real call,” he said.

Then, when Siegenthaler saw the news about Barriss’ arrest for the Wichita incident, reports say Calgary police connected him to the alleged swatting incident there. They issued an arrest warrant.

Barriss, who was arrested in South Los Angeles, was booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter Thursday afternoon.

It’s likely he’ll never be arrested in Canada, unless he enters the country, CBC Calgary news reported. But Barriss is charged in Calgary with public mischief, fraud and mischief, police said.

Siegenthaler told reporters it doesn’t take a sophisticated person to make a swatting call. He believes Lisa was targeted because of her “online persona.”

She’s a video game streamer on Twitch and has thousands of followers on Twitter, Twitch and YouTube. She never publicly addressed the incident, but the next day apologized to followers on Twitter for ending her stream abruptly.

“I would never do that unless I thought it was completely nessisary or an emergency,” she tweeted.

Glendale police in California told ABC News that Barriss is suspected in about 20 threat-related calls to universities, schools and media outlets throughout the country. The only other time he was arrested was in 2015. He was convicted of making a bomb threat to KABC News.

Nichole Manna: 316-269-6752, @NicholeManna

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