Wichita City Hall cut the microphone on Lisa Finch on Tuesday during a lengthy and wide-ranging speech five days after the district attorney decided not to charge the Wichita police officer who fired the shot that killed her son while responding to a bogus “swatting” call.
Mayor Jeff Longwell tried to get Finch to wrap up shortly after she went over the five minutes the Wichita City Council customarily allows speakers from the public, but she refused to relinquish the podium.
About the time the speech hit 20 minutes, Longwell again asked her to stop and she again refused. At that point, the city cut the microphone.
Finch continued without it, but the television cablecast on the city’s public-access channel went silent for the remainder of her speech.
Longwell made the decision to cut the sound, saying he was sympathetic but she had gone over her allotted time. After the meeting, Finch said she wouldn’t have stopped until she was through no matter what they did. The speech addressed multiple topics related to police and police shootings.
It was Finch’s first public appearance since District Attorney Marc Bennett decided not to file any charges against the officer who fired the shot that killed her son, Andrew, on Dec. 28.
“The investigation, if it was an actual investigation, was not thorough,” Finch said. “In an actual investigation, aren’t all parties questioned? We (family witnesses to the shooting) were never contacted.”
Andrew Finch was shot when police responded to a fake murder-hostage call at the family home. Investigators say that call was a case of “swatting,” in which a person calls in a hoax to try to prompt a Special Weapons and Tactics — or SWAT — team response to a particular address.
Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles has been charged with making the phony call. The caller also stated that he had spread gasoline inside the house and might set it on fire.
The swatting in question in the Finch case is believed to have been prompted by a dispute among online gamers over a $1.50 wager on a game of "Call of Duty." Finch contrasted the handling of her son’s shooting to the case of former Wichita officer Dexter Betts, who was fired and criminally charged for wounding a 9-year-old girl while shooting at a dog while responding to a call. The charge against Betts alleges that he acted recklessly.
“Why does the same charge not apply to the shooter when he fired a live round into a house supposedly doused with gasoline (as the caller claimed)?” Finch said. “This put my entire household in that condition.”
Finch also berated the council for inaction in her son’s shooting. “What is it going to take to get Wichita to act like an American city?” she said.
At Longwell’s urging, City Attorney Jennifer Magana said the city cannot file a criminal charge against the officer, because that’s Bennett’s call.
And City Manager Robert Layton outlined internal steps that will be taken now that the decision has been made on criminal charges. He said the department’s internal investigators will now conduct their own investigation to determine whether city policies were violated in the shooting. In addition, a newly formed citizens’ advisory board will review the case. That board does not make rulings on officer discipline, but Layton said that panel will meet publicly and discuss whether policy changes are needed to prevent similar incidents in the future.