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Crime and Courts

Estes Introduces Bill To Increase Penalties For 'Swatting' Incidents

Kansas State Treasury website

Congressman Ron Estes of Wichita has introduced a bill that would increase penalties for swatting incidents.

The punishment could include up to 20 years in prison if someone is seriously injured as a result of swatting. A bill to increase swatting penalties has also been introduced in the Kansas Legislature.

Swatting involves making a false report of a crime in progress to emergency dispatchers in order to get a large number of police officers to descend on an address. The calls often arise after disputes between members of the online gaming community.

The bill will be known as the Andrew T. Finch Memorial Act. Finch, 28, was killed in December by Wichita Police, who were responding to a swatting call at his house. He was unarmed. Police have said he was not part of a dispute between gamers, which triggered the incident.

Finch’s family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Wichita seeking unspecified damages.

Police have charged Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles with involuntary manslaughter and other crimes. Authorities maintain Barriss made the swatting call and unwittingly used Finch’s address, which led to the police response.

Estes, a Republican, said in a news release that by increasing the punishment for swatting, he hopes it will “deter others from participating in this dangerous activity.” The FBI estimates there were 400 swatting incidents in 2013.