Long gone are the days of the Jerky Boys. Pranks in the internet age are being taken too far.
Recently, 28-year-old Andrew Finch opened the door to his home in Wichita, Kansas and was met with a team of police SWAT members. They were armed to the teeth and shouting at Andrew to put his hands behind his head. Andrew apparently made a sudden movement and an officer fired a single round, killing Andrew.
He was home with his family and completely unarmed when this happened.
So what could Andrew have done to have police special forces called to his home? The answer is, strangely, absolutely nothing. Andrew was the victim of a “swatting” prank.
In the prank, an online gamer calls the police and reports a fake crime being committed by an opposing player. The police arrive at the innocent gamer’s home and arrest them while others watch via the victim’s video live feed. In Andrew’s case, police were told there was a hostage situation taking place in his home.
But strangely, Andrew Finch wasn’t playing any game – his family says he doesn’t even play games.
In this case, the gamer who was supposed to be ‘swatted’ lived nearby. This gaming neighbor provided Andrew’s address at random, so he himself wouldn’t be the victim of the prank.
The actual caller was identified and arrested the following day – Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles. Barriss admitted to making the call on behalf of another player who was bitter over losing a $2 Call of Duty bet. The winner of the bet provided his address, not expecting the loser to actual ‘swat’ him, but the address he provided was actually Andrew’s.
Barriss was later released by police. He took to Twitter to defend himself, stating “I didn’t get anyone killed because I didn’t discharge a weapon and being a swat member isn’t my profession.”
What can gamers learn from this? First and foremost – don’t do anything that could get people seriously hurt. Burriss and other ‘swat’ prankers knew that there was inherit risk in hinting to the police that people’s lives were in danger. They chose to act anyway.
This could become one of those cases that gets lawmakers thinking seriously about how to handle these special cases. Don’t be terribly surprised if liability laws for gamers change after this.