Federal charges filed in ‘swatting’ case
An alleged swatter plans to plead guilty to 46 new federal charges filed in California related to fake threats of bombs, shootings and other violence.
Federal prosecutors filed the new charges against Tyler Rai Barriss on Wednesday in the Central District of California, alleging that he made several false threats to law enforcement between September 2014 and December 2017. The crimes are alleged to have been committed in Los Angeles.
Barriss is also referred to as “@SWAUTISTIC,” “Robert Hayward,” “Robert,” “Alex Mendez,” “Alex,” “Matthew” and “Aaron” in court documents.
Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles, was charged earlier this year in a December swatting where Wichita police Officer Justin Rapp shot and killed Andrew Finch at his home when he opened his front door. Shane M. Gaskill, 20, of Wichita, and Casey Viner, 18, of Ohio, have also been charged and pleaded not guilty to multiple charges.
Wichita police have said Finch did not comply with commands to keep his hands raised when officers were called to a reported homicide and hostage situation at 1033 W. McCormick on Dec. 28. It wasn’t until after Finch was dead and officers were in the house that they knew the call was a hoax, police said.
Rapp will not be charged in the shooting, District Attorney Marc Bennett announced in April.
Gaskill and Viner had been involved in a “Call of Duty” World War II game with a $1.50 wager when one of the characters was virtually “killed” accidentally, online gamers said. Prosecutors say Viner asked Tyler Barriss, 25, to swat Gaskill at 1033 W. McCormick — an address Gaskill provided.
After police responded to that address, a superseding indictment says, Gaskill sent two more messages to Barriss. “Do you wanna try again?” one message said.
“Swatting” is when someone makes a call to a police department with a false story of an ongoing crime — often with killing or hostages involved — in an attempt to draw a large number of police officers to a particular address.
The new charges in California list four unindicted co-conspirators: Twitter user “@INTERNETLORD” of Des Plaines, Illinois; “@TRAGIC” of Gulf Breeze, Florida; “@THROW” of Grand Rapids, Michigan; and “@SPARED” of Greenwood, Missouri.
In a signed court document dated Oct. 18 and filed in California on Wednesday, Barriss said that he plans to plead guilty to the offenses charged and requested that the case be transferred to the District of Kansas. He previously pleaded not guilty to several charges filed in Kansas, including involuntary manslaughter.
Barriss has also been charged with bomb threats against government buildings in Washington, D.C., including the FBI headquarters. Federal prosecutors in the District of Columbia said in May that Barriss was the target of a wide-ranging grand jury investigation in California.
Police in College Hill, Ohio, have said Barriss had allegedly swatted Viner before Viner asked Barriss to swat Gaskill. The new court documents allege that Barriss was paid to swat a victim — identified only by the initials C.V. — on Dec. 18 in Cincinnati. College Hill is a suburb of Cincinnati.
Viner lives with his father, who is a law enforcement officer, court documents say.
The first seven new charges allege crimes involving Barriss making threats that conveyed false information to police. They happened in September and October 2015.
Three threats in September involved bombs planted at schools in Beaver Creek, Ohio; Keene, New Hampshire; and Henderson, Nevada. In October, Barriss allegedly made bomb threats to three Illinois university police departments: DuPage University, University of Illinois-Chicago and Northern Illinois University. Additionally, Barriss allegedly told Ipswich, Massachusetts, police that he had murdered his girlfriend and intended to kill officers and himself.
The next 13 charges allege that Barriss made more threats over a four-day period in late September 2017. They included reporting to police that he had shot people at homes, planted bombs at Harvard University, a shopping center, schools and other buildings, and that he had planted bombs in a high school and a movie theater and was outside each armed with a gun.
They were made in Peoria, Illinois; Layton, Utah; Alexandria, Arlington and Richmond, Virginia; Allen and West University Place, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and New London and Hannibal, Missouri.
In October 2017, Barriss allegedly made two bomb threats to a high school in Center, Missouri, a threat that he had shot his wife at a Las Vegas, Nevada, hotel and planned to shoot other hotel guests, and a threat in Washington, Illinois, that he had killed two people at a home and planned to kill any law enforcement officers who approached.
Barriss allegedly made an additional 12 threats in November. They included threats of bombs and other acts of violence at television stations, schools, shopping centers, an apartment complex, a Philadelphia museum and West Virginia University.
The threats were allegedly made Dallas; Austin; Chicago; Philadelphia; Portland, Maine; Dedham, Massachusetts; Bernalillo, New Mexico; Valley Stream, New York; Michigan City, Indiana; Panama City Beach, Florida; Durand, Michigan; and Morgantown, West Virginia.
Nine more charges allege 11 threats of violence in December.
Some of those threats included bomb and shooting threats at schools and a mall, swatting a video game tournament. Those allegedly happened in Dallas; Gurnee, Illinois; Burke, Virginia; Smithtown and Lake Grove, New York; Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
Other threats included shooting family members, holding other people hostage and threatening to set his home on fire. Those threats were made to police in San Antonio; Cincinnati; Indianapolis and Avon, Indiana; and Calgary, Canada.
In one of the December threat charges, Barriss allegedly was paid $30 to swat two people. He had been offered payment of a Microsoft Xbox and Bitcoin crypto-currency. One of the co-conspirators tried to record the victim’s reaction to the swatting through the internet.
One count of bank fraud alleges Barriss and another person used someone else’s credit and debit card to purchase a NASA hat, a belt and shoes.