Crime & Courts

Tyler Barriss gets 20 years federal prison, DA to dismiss manslaughter case

Updated 12:30 p.m.: Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Friday that state court charges Tyler Barriss faces directly connected to the death of Andrew Finch will be dismissed.

The announcement came during a joint news conference with U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister following Barriss’s sentencing in federal court on 51 charges related to hoax calls the 26-year-old Los Angeles man made to schools, shopping center, government buildings, businesses and other locations across the country.

The bulk of those federal charges were filed in federal court in California and a few were charged in Washington D.C.’s federal court, but they were resolved before U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren along with Barriss’s Kansas federal court charges.

Bennett said when his office initially filed the involuntary manslaughter case against Barriss, prosecutors figured Barriss would face around 10 years in prison due to his prior criminal history. Barriss has convictions in California.

But Bennett said a recent supreme court decision changed how the past convictions would play into any new sentence Barriss might receive in the involuntary manslaughter case. Instead of the possible 10 years imprisonment, Bennett said, the change now means Barriss could only receive about 44 months total - less than half the time originally anticipated.

He said his willingness to drop the state court charges influenced Barriss’s decision to plead guilty to the federal charges.

Court papers dismissing the involuntary manslaughter and other state court charges will be filed by Monday, Bennett said.

McAllister during the news conference said that it took “a significant amount of time” to reach Barriss’ plea deal, in large part because the charges spanned three federal court districts.

He called Friday’s sentence “a fair and appropriate resolution,” adding that he hopes it brings peace to Finch’s family and closure to the Wichita community.

He also said he hopes Barriss’s sentence sends a message to the online gaming community that swatting is a serious crime and called for the end of the practice.

The two gamers whose argument during an online Call of Duty wager match preceded the deadly Wichita swatting call — Casey Viner of Ohio and Shane Gaskill of Wichita — are still awaiting trial for their roles in Finch’s death.

Viner has what’s called a change of plea hearing scheduled for next week, where he will presumably plead guilty to at least some federal charges.

Updated: 11:10 a.m: U.S. District Judge Eric Meglren on Friday morning ordered Tyler Barriss to serve a total of 20 years in federal prison for a series of swattings he carried out across the country.

After he’s released from federal prison, Barriss will serve five years of supervised release. He also has to pay $5,000 to the Kansas Crime Victim’s Compensation fund to reimburse it for a payout it made to the family of fatal Wichita swatting victim Andrew Finch.

The sentence includes 150 months imprisonment for the Kansas case, 90 months in prison for a variety of charges he racked up in federal court in California, and 30 months in prison for calling in bomb threats to the Federal Trade Commission building and FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Melgren ordered Barriss to serve the Kansas and California sentences back to back. The Washington D.C. sentence will be served concurrently, or at the same time, as the others.

In comments to the court Friday, Barriss asked for the Finch family’s forgiveness.

“I take full responsibility in what happened to him,” Barriss said, adding that if he hadn’t called Wichita emergency services on Dec. 28, 2017, “Andrew Finch never would have lost his life.”

“If I could take it back I would. ... I’m just so sorry for that.”

Original story: Tyler Barriss — who made a fake emergency call that ended with the police shooting death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch in 2017, the nation’s first fatal swatting — is being sentenced Friday in federal prison for a host of swattings and bomb hoaxes he made to schools, government buildings and businesses across the country.

He’s expected to receive 20 to 25 years in prison.

His federal public defender, Rich Federico, said in court Friday that following the hearing he understands the state court charges against Barriss will be dismissed by the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office. Barriss is charged with involuntary manslaughter and other charges related to Finch’s death in that case.

Bennett and U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister are set to hold a joint news conference following this morning’s federal sentencing hearing.

Barriss pleaded guilty in November to 51 federal charges. He was arrested following the Dec. 28, 2017, fatal shooting of Finch by Wichita police. Police responded to an emergency call reporting a homicide and hostage situation at Finch’s home, not knowing it was a hoax.

Officer Justin Rapp shot Finch with a rifle from his post across the street after Finch stepped out on his porch to see why there were police lights outside. Police claim Finch didn’t comply with commands to keep his hands up. Finch’s family says Finch posed no threat, was unarmed and had no clue what was going on.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.