Crime & Courts

‘No way to describe the agony,’ Wichita mother of swatting victim says a year later

‘Swatting’ victim’s mom, a year later

Lisa Finch, whose son, Andrew, was killed by police responding to a false murder-hostage call Dec. 28 of last year, speaks out on the pain and anguish that still haunts her and her family.
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Lisa Finch, whose son, Andrew, was killed by police responding to a false murder-hostage call Dec. 28 of last year, speaks out on the pain and anguish that still haunts her and her family.

Approaching the one-year anniversary of the fatal “swatting” death that shook Wichita, the mother of victim Andrew Finch went to City Hall Tuesday where she spoke of the agony the family has gone through and demanded answers on what’s been done to prevent future shootings of innocent people.

Lisa Finch pointed the council to its own Web site, where public safety is described as the city’s No. 1 priority.

“How is Wichita safe, living well and well ran when a totally innocent person is shot in their own home?” she said. “How is Wichita well-ran when no one is held accountable and WPD (Wichita Police Department) has the green light to do whatever they want?

“How is Wichita safe when according to FBI statistics, Wichita has a ratio of one death for every 120 officers? This ratio is 11 times higher than the national average and higher than both Detroit and Chicago.”

Finch’s son Andrew was shot to death last Dec. 28 at his front door by police Officer Justin Rapp. Rapp was part of a police response to a phony call claiming that the house was the scene of a murder-hostage situation.

After speaking to the council, Finch talked about how grief from the errant shooting has affected and continues to affect the family.

“It is coming up on a year and our family can’t get in the mood for Christmas,” she said. “Nobody’s put up decorations, I haven’t even bought a gift yet. I just want to stay home in bed. I don’t want to spend Christmas without my son.”

She said Andrew’s brother and sister, cousins, nephews and nieces also continue to be devastated by his death.

“There’s a hole, there’s a void, that will never be filled because of the death of my son,” she said. “There’s no explanation, there’s no way to describe the agony. There’s nothing that can be done that can fix this.”

The police call was an incident of “swatting,” a hoax designed to provoke a Special Weapons and Tactics response to a made-up incident. The swatting call spun off a dispute over a $1.50 bet on an online video game of Call of Duty.

The Finches had nothing to do with the game, but the man who made the fake police call, Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles, sent police to their house because it was the previous address of the person he was trying to target.

Barriss, 26, has pleaded guilty to 51 federal crimes related to his false calls and still faces state charges in the Finch case.

Rapp, who shot finch, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

In the almost one year since the shooting, the council has been near-silent on the issues raised by the case.

On Tuesday, Mayor Jeff Longwell said there were still things the council couldn’t talk about, because of the family’s litigation over the shooting.

But he did express sympathy for what Lisa Finch had gone through and promised her a meeting with City Attorney Jennifer Magana to talk about whatever the city could talk about.

“The mayor, this is the first time he acknowledged they were in grievance with us, so I appreciate that,” Finch said. “But it’s been almost a year. Why was it a year in coming? Why did they not come forward when it first happened?”

She said the only other acknowledgment she’d gotten from the city was some remarks from the bench by Councilman Brandon Johnson and a brief visit to her home from Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.

Replied Longwell: “I think we’ve expressed sympathy all along. I don’t know that this is something that has (been) relative to just today. It’s been a tough process to go through. Hard to say much more than that.”

Finch said she’ll immediately start trying to set up a time to meet with the city attorney.

She said she plans to ask what, if any, police reforms have taken place or are in the pipeline based on what happened to her son.

“There’s no accountability, there’s no transparency in any way, shape or form when it comes to WPD,” she said. “And I do consider them (the council members) accomplices just as guilty as the people doing wrong.”

Longwell declined to discuss any changes in the department that may have spun off the swatting case.

“I’m not going to speak to some of that because it complicates the litigation at this point,” he said.

A vigil and observance of the one-year anniversary of Finch’s death is being organized. It will take place at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28 at the house where Finch was killed, 1033 W. McCormick, Lisa Finch said.

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.