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Crime and Courts

Family Of Man Killed After 'Swatting' Call Sues Wichita

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GLENDALE, CALIF., POLICE DEPARTMENT/ AP

The family of a Wichita man who was fatally shot by police on his porch after a hoax emergency call has sued the city and the unidentified officers involved.

The federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Kansas seeks unspecified damages related to the Dec. 28 death of Andrew Finch. He was shot by police responding to a California man's call with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch's Wichita home. Finch, 28, was unarmed.

The shooting drew national attention to a practice called "swatting," in which a person makes up a false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address. The hoax call reportedly was made after a dispute over a small wager online in a "Call of Duty" online video game tournament, according to Dexerto, a news service focused on gaming.

"The family wants justice and reform they want to make sure Andy's legacy means something and maybe some other family won't have to experience the tragedy they are experiencing because of a change in policy and procedures," said civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family. His Chicago law firm specializes in police shootings cases.

Wichita police officers have been involved in at least 29 shootings between 2010 and 2015, resulting in at least 15 deaths, according the lawsuit. In most of these cases, the city has declined to release the names of the involved officers.

City Attorney Jennifer Magana said Tuesday in a news release that "after the City is served with the lawsuit, it will be reviewed and an appropriate response filed.”
 
Tyler Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, giving false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer for allegedly placing the hoax call. Barriss is not named as a defendant in the Finch family's civil lawsuit.

"Wichita leadership is trying to put all the blame on the young man in California who placed the swatting call," Stroth said. "But let's be clear: The swatter did not shoot the bullet that killed Andy Finch. That was an officer working under the direction of the Wichita Police Department."

The hoax call was not a local 911 call, and the house the caller described did not match the description of the house police surrounded in Wichita. Those factors should have been assessed prior to a police officer shooting Finch, Stroth said.

Police have said that when Finch came out onto his porch, officers told him to put his hands up and move slowly. They said that Finch moved a hand toward the area of his waistband and an officer -- who feared Finch was reaching for a gun -- fired a single shot.