Back around New Years, we looked at the case of the horrifying incident where an online gamer called in a swatting attack on the wrong address, resulting in the death of a complete stranger when police fired upon him. The individual, Tyler Barriss, was quickly located and arrested but it wasn’t initially clear what he might be charged with beyond some lower level felony count of making a false police report. Now we have at least part of the answer to that question. Authorities have extradited him from California to Kansas and charged him with manslaughter in addition to the lesser crimes previously discussed. (NY Daily News)
The California man believed to be behind a deadly “swatting” prank has been charged with manslaughter for placing the phony phone call that culminated in a police officer shooting an unarmed man outside his Kansas home.
Tyler Barriss is also facing charges including interference with law enforcement and reporting a false alarm, which is a felony.
The 25-year-old suspect on Friday made his first court appearance from jail via video after being extradited from California earlier in the week.
In deciding just how culpable Barriss was in the death of Andrew Finch, it’s worth checking out the seeming confession he makes in this interview with a local news outlet. (KWCH News)
“I never intended for anyone to get shot and killed,” he says.
Even if getting an innocent man shot and killed by police was never the intent, many wonder why anyone would make a swatting call in the first place. “There is no inspiration. I don’t get bored and just sit around and decide I’m going to make a SWAT call,” Barriss says.
Barriss says people had often paid him to make the fake emergency calls, but he wouldn’t say if he was paid to make the swatting call in Wichita that led to Finch’s death…
“It hasn’t just affected my life, it’s affected someone’s family too,” he says. “Someone lost their life. I understand the magnitude of what happened. It’s not just affecting me because I’m sitting in jail. I know who it has affected. I understand all of that.”
Not that I’m insinuating that this guy was some sort of rocket scientist to begin with, but that certainly sounds like a confession. But he “didn’t intend” for anyone to get shot or killed? I’m not willing to believe that anyone smart enough to hook up a laptop, a gaming console and a television is stupid enough to seriously believe that. What did he think was going to happen when he convinced law enforcement to send a SWAT team to a house where there was an armed individual who had already murdered one person and had doused the lower floor with gasoline? Obviously there was a high likelihood that somebody was going to be killed or seriously injured.
What’s more, he’s admitted that he’s done it before and been paid to do it. That’s pretty much the equivalent of acting as a hired hit man. But we may be entering some rather unique legal territory here. The crime was committed over the phone from half a country away. He had no motive to go after Finch since it was a case of mistaken identity. (Or at least the wrong address.) And despite what I just said, he couldn’t have known to a certainty that Finch would die.
Can they bring in a conviction for manslaughter of any sort under those circumstances? I certainly hope so. It likely doesn’t fit the definition of actual murder in most places, but it’s at least manslaughter. Yet we live under a complicated and frequently frustrating legal system. A clever enough lawyer might be able to get Barriss off with only a couple of nuisance charges. That would be a total miscarriage of justice as far as I’m concerned, but I’ve seen too many criminal cases go off the rails to feel very confident about this one.