U.S. News

Man who admitted role in Kansas 'swatting' death gets 20 years

(Reuters) - A California man was sentenced on Friday to 20 years in federal prison for making hoax calls, including a so-called “swatting” incident where Kansas police responded to a false report and fatally shot an unarmed man, prosecutors said.

FILE PHOTO - Tyler Barriss, 25, (L) appears in court for his extradition hearing with his lawyer Mearl Lottman in Los Angeles, California U.S. January 3, 2018. REUTERS/Irfan Khan/Pool

Tyler Barriss, 26, of Los Angeles, California, pleaded guilty last November in U.S. District Court in Wichita, Kansas, to charges stemming from the December 2017 incident as well as dozens of similar hoax calls in which no one was hurt.

“I hope that this prosecution and lengthy sentence sends a strong message that will put an end to the juvenile and reckless practice of ‘swatting’ within the gaming community, as well as in any other context,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a statement.

Swatting refers to a prank in which a caller falsely reports an emergency that requires a police response, usually by Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, teams.

The Kansas case arose from a spat between two online video gamers, Shane Gaskill, 20, of Wichita and Casey Viner, 19, from a suburb of Cincinnati, prosecutors said. Both pleaded not guilty last June to federal charges against them.

Viner is scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday at which he is expected to plead guilty to charges in the case, court documents showed. Gaskill is set to go on trial in Wichita on April 23.

While playing an online video game on Dec. 28, 2017, Viner got upset at Gaskill and contacted Barriss, a known swatter, to punish him, federal prosecutors said.

Viner gave Barriss an address he believed was Gaskill’s, not knowing that Gaskill had given him a phony address in Wichita, authorities said.

Barriss admitted making the hoax calls to Wichita police. Authorities said he used a false name to report that he shot and killed his father, was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint, and was threatening to set fire to the address he received from Viner and commit suicide.

When Wichita police arrived at the address, an officer shot and killed Andrew Finch, 28, as he stood at the front door of his home.

Barriss, who pleaded guilty to making a false report resulting in a death, cyberstalking and conspiracy, also admitted to making numerous hoax bomb threats in several other states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

Barriss had also faced state charges in Kansas, but a spokesman for the Sedgwick County Office of the District Attorney said in an email on Friday they were being dismissed following his federal sentencing.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Diane Craft