Online gamers have said in multiple Twitter posts that the shooting of a man Thursday night by Wichita police was the result of a “swatting” hoax involving two gamers.
Swatting happened 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.
Swatting has gained traction across the country with online gamers. Those who try to cause the swatting incident will use caller ID spoofing or other techniques to disguise their number as being local. Or they call local non-emergency numbers instead of 911, according to 911.gov.
Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said Thursday night that police were looking into whether the call that led to the shooting was a case of swatting.
Livingston said the department received a call that someone had an argument with their mother, that the father had been shot in the head and the shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage.
“That was the information we were working off of,” he said.
Officers went to the 1000 block of McCormick, preparing for a hostage situation and they “got into position,” he said.
“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”
Livingston didn’t say if the man, who was 28, had a weapon when he came to the door, or what caused the officer to shoot the man. Police don’t think the man fired at officers, but the incident is still under investigation, he said. The man, who has not been identified by police, died at a local hospital.
A family member identified that man who was shot by police as Andrew Finch. One of Finch’s cousins said Finch didn’t play video games.
“This call was little peculiar for us,” Livingston said. “(The call) went to a substation first, then it was relayed to dispatch, then dispatch gave it to us. We have a lot of information to go through.”
On Twitter, more than a dozen people who identified themselves as being in the gaming community told The Eagle that a feud between two Call of Duty players sparked one to initiate a “swatting” call.
After news began to spread about what happened Thursday night, the people in the gaming community, through Twitter posts, pointed at two gamers.
“I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION,” said one gamer, who others said made the swatting call. His account was suspended overnight.
According to posts on Twitter, two gamers were arguing when one threatened to target the other with a swatting call. The person who was the target of the swatting gave the other gamer a false address, which sent police to a nearby home instead of his own, according to Twitter posts.
The person who was to be the target of the swatting sent a Tweet saying, “Someone tried to swat me and got an innocent man killed.”
Livingston, the deputy police chief, would only provide the block number of the home where the shooting occurred, not the specific address. Police were seen in the front yards of two houses across from each other at the corner of Seneca and McCormick.
Dexerto, a online news service focused on gaming and the Call of Duty game, reported the argument began over a $1 or $2 wager over the game.
“Normally this is a prank, but due to the high stress situation, sometimes it is closer to a death threat from a user trying to get cops to kill them,” one man told The Eagle in an email.
The officer who fired the shot — a seven-year veteran of the police department — will be placed on administrative paid leave, which is department policy.
Police expect to release more information later Friday.