Man Gets 20 Years Jail For Hoax 911 Call Leading To Fatal Police Shooting Over Video Game

A man has been sentenced to jail over bogus emergency calls that led police to shoot another man in a dispute over a video game.

A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for making emergency calls to authorities across the U.S., including one that led police to fatally shoot a Kansas man following a dispute between two online players over a US$1.50 bet in the "Call of Duty: WWII" video game.

U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren sentenced Tyler R. Barriss, 26, under a deal in which he pleaded guilty in November to a total of 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats.

The 2017 death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch drew national attention to the practice of "swatting," a form of retaliation in which someone reports a false emergency to get authorities, particularly a SWAT team, to descend on an address.

The dispute began over a video game. Photo: Getty Images

Authorities said an Ohio gamer recruited Barriss to "swat" a Wichita gamer, but the address they used was old, leading police to Finch, who was not involved in the video game or the dispute.

Barriss admitted he called Wichita police from Los Angeles on December 28, 2017, to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at that Wichita address. Finch answered the door, and an officer shot the unarmed man.

Barriss' prosecution in Wichita consolidated other federal cases that had initially been filed against him in California and the District of Columbia involving similar calls and threats he made. Prosecutors had asked for a 25-year sentence, while the defense had sought a 20-year term.

Tyler Barriss in court in May 2018. Photo: Getty

"We hope that this will send a strong message about swatting, which is a juvenile and senseless practice," U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister told reporters after the sentencing.

"We'd like to put an end to it within the gaming community and in any other context."

The FBI recognized swatting as an emerging threat as early as 2008, noting it had become commonplace among gamers. The intended target in Wichita, Shane Gaskill, 20, and the man who allegedly recruited Barriss, Casey Viner, 19, of North College Hill, Ohio, were charged as co-conspirators.

Authorities said Viner provided Barriss with an address for Gaskill that Gaskill had previously given to Viner. Authorities also said that when Gaskill noticed Barriss was following him on Twitter, he gave Barriss that old address and taunted him to "try something."

Viner and Gaskill pleaded not guilty to charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Viner has notified the court he intends to change that plea at a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The hoax of "swatting" is under the microscope again. Photo: Getty

Gaskill's trial has been delayed to April 23 amid plea talks with federal prosecutors. Finch's family has sued the city of Wichita and the unidentified officers involved.

Police have said the officer who shot Finch thought he was reaching for a gun because he moved a hand toward his waistband. Prosecutors declined to charge the officer.