KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Police and the FBI are investigating whether an argument over an online game prompted a prank call that led to a house where an officer shot and killed a Kansas man who apparently wasn’t involved in the dispute.
Police say the death Thursday in Wichita, Kansas, may have been the result of a practice called “swatting,” in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said an officer responded to a report that a father had been shot in the head and that a shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage, The Wichita Eagle reported.
When police arrived at the house, a 28-year-old man who came to the front door was shot and died, Livingston said. The man hasn’t been identified by police, but Lisa Finch told the newspaper that the victim was her son, Andrew Finch. She said he was unarmed and was not a gamer.
Livingston didn’t say what caused the officer to shoot the man.
But Livingston told reporters at the scene that police were called to the home after being “given some misinformation.” Police were expected to provide more details at a late-afternoon news conference.
Dexerto, an online news service focused on gaming, reported that the series of events began with an online argument over a $1 or $2 wager in a “Call of Duty” game on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments including one involving “Call of Duty.”
“We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life,” Shannon Gerritzen, a UMG vice president, said in an email to The Associated Press. “Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We are doing everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter.” She declined to disclose other details.
The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with some using caller ID spoofing to disguise their number. An FBI supervisor in Kansas City, Missouri, which covers all of Kansas, said the agency joined in the investigation at the request of local police.
Lisa Finch told the newspaper that her son was murdered by police. She said he went to the door after hearing something, then screamed and was shot. She said the family was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and handcuffed. She said her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle and that no guns were found in the home.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” she asked. “That cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place.”
Livingston says police are investigating whether the call that led to the shooting was a prank
The officer who fired the shot — a seven-year veteran of the police department — will be placed on administrative paid leave, which is department policy.
In other cases of apparent swatting, three families in Florida in January had to evacuate their homes after a detective received an anonymous email claiming bombs had been placed at the address.
A 20-year-old Maryland man was shot in the face with rubber bullets by police in 2015 after a fake hostage situation was reported at his home.
Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015 — then was herself the victim of swatting. Armed officers in 2016 responded to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at Clark’s home.