By Emily Sullivan, NPR
Tyler Barriss, 26, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to making a false report resulting in a death, after he placed a hoax call late last year that resulted in police fatally shooting an unarmed man in Wichita, Kan.
Barriss pleaded guilty to a total of 51 charges as part of a plea deal. He will be sentenced in January, The Associated Press reports.
Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister told The Wichita Eagle he will recommend that Barriss be sentenced to 20 years in prison, providing he writes apology letters to police, dispatchers and the family of Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old father of two who was shot by police who responded to the hoax call in December.
The call that led to Finch’s death was an instance known as “swatting” — making a false report of an ongoing crime so serious that a SWAT team or large group of officers shows up.
Barriss was charged with the federal crime of making hoax bomb threats in phone calls to the headquarters of the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission. He falsely reported bombs at dozens of high schools, universities, shopping malls and television stations.
In the case of Finch, Barriss placed a call claiming that he had shot his father and was holding other relatives hostage in a home in Wichita. In reality, Barriss placed the call from California.
As NPR has reported, “Finch appeared at the door to the house and, following verbal commands from the officers, stepped forward with his hands up. At numerous points, however, he reached for his waistband. Fearful that Finch was going for a firearm, an officer discharged one round,” killing him.
As to why Barriss made the call, the AP reports that it stemmed from an argument with Shane Gaskill, 20, of Wichita and Casey Viner, 18, of North College Hill, Ohio, while playing Call of Duty, an online multiplayer video game.
After losing a bet reportedly worth $1.50, Viner asked Barriss to swat Gaskill, using an address Gaskill had given to him in the past that actually belonged to Finch.
Viner and Gaskill have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Both have pleaded not guilty. Their trial is scheduled for early next year.
“Without ever stepping foot in Wichita, the defendant created a chaotic situation that quickly turned from dangerous to deadly,” McAllister said in a statement.
The police officer who shot Finch did not face charges.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” the victim’s mother, Lisa Finch, said in January. “That cop murdered my son over a false report.”