The attorney for Andrew Finch’s family said they are calling for an independent prosecutor to determine whether a Wichita police officer should be charged with a crime in Finch’s shooting, which resulted from a hoax emergency call.
“I think there should be an independent prosecutor, and I have also reached out to the Department of Justice and FBI, given the egregious nature of the shooting of Andrew Finch,” Chicago attorney Andrew Stroth said Wednesday shortly after a news conference.
Stroth said it is the first time the family has publicly called for an independent prosecutor.
Stroth and Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, spoke to media in a brief news conference they described as an update.
That same day, a crew from Crime Watch Daily, a national show, was inside interviewing the Finch family.
Speaking to reporters outside the home, near where her son was shot on Dec. 28, Lisa Finch said that District Attorney Marc Bennett doesn’t have a history of charging officers in shootings. “That officer needs to have charges filed against him,” she said.
Bennett, the county’s chief prosecutor, said when told of her comments: “Each and every case gets a full and thorough examination by me personally. And since I took office, I have put my findings into writing, and I have presented those findings to the public in a press conference where I answer questions from the press so I can be as transparent as possible.”
Although the family faults the person who reported a fake killing and hostage situation that resulted in Finch’s death, their focus is on the Wichita Police Department and the officer who fired the fatal shot, Stroth said. Mayor Jeff Longwell and the City Manager Robert Layton also have responsibility, Stroth said.
Police couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.
Referring to what he described as a lack of transparency that doesn’t occur in other jurisdictions, Stroth said, “We still don’t know the officer’s name.”
“I wanted it (the name) to be made public,” Lisa Finch said. “I don’t know what he has to hide.”
In a recent article, The Eagle reported that although state law and city policy say the Police Department can give the name of the officer who shot Finch, the city doesn’t plan to. The city is following an unwritten rule that the names of officers involved in shootings are not released unless the officer is charged with a crime. That almost never happens.
Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and other city officials say they are reluctant to release names in officer shootings because they want to protect officers from threats and possible retaliation.
The Finch family has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city and the officers involved, and Stroth noted that the city is using a lawyer from a Topeka law firm to defend itself.
Finch, a 28-year-old father of young children, was shot through the front screen door in his home after police arrived, Stroth said.
The mother and the attorney said that police didn’t follow protocol in the shooting. “That night they did not follow any training whatsoever,” Lisa Finch said. Neither she nor Stroth spoke specifically about how protocol wasn’t followed.
She also said that her son was late in receiving medical attention that evening.
Finch was killed by a single shot from an officer after police responded to a fake report of a hostage situation in December. The hoax, designed to draw an emergency police response, is known as a swatting. The hoax resulted from online gaming. Finch was the innocent victim, everyone agrees.
Tyler Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles, has been charged with manslaughter in Finch’s death. He is accused of making the fake call to police and reporting a made-up killing and hostage situation that caused police to descend on Finch’s home.
A new bill would make any false call to any emergency response agency a misdemeanor. The call would become a felony if the person uses a false identity or electronically masks their identity. If someone is killed, the charge could be a felony comparable to second-degree murder.
The bill resulted from bipartisan work involving Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, Rep. John Whitmer, a Wichita Republican, and Rep. Patty Markley, an Overland Park Republican.
On the evening of Dec. 28, Wichita police went to the Finch home near McCormick and Seneca. They were dispatched to what was reported as a killing with hostages.
Finch went to the front door to see why police lights were outside. Police said they ordered him to keep his hands raised, but he reached toward his waistline. When he reached his hands up suddenly, police say, an officer positioned across the street from Finch fired a shot from a rifle. The bullet came from about 40 yards away.
According to experts interviewed by The Eagle, a key question is why one of the officers perceived enough of a threat to shoot when others didn’t. But one police consultant said it’s possible that the officer fired because his vantage point put him in the one position to see a threat and act as he thought was necessary.
Questions also remain about the handling of the hoax call. One expert said that the first possible sign that something was wrong about the call was that it was first made to City Hall’s security desk, not directly to 911. That is a common tactic of swatters trying to hide their identities. Also, the caller described the house he was reportedly in as a one-story home when the house police went to had two levels. If that information had been relayed to officers, it could have raised a red flag that something was amiss.