The Los Angeles man at the center of what is believed to be the first fatal “swatting” incident in the U.S. is being held on suspicion of manslaughter in connection with a hoax phone call that led to a deadly shooting in Kansas, records show.
Tyler Rai Barriss, 25, was booked Thursday on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and interference with law enforcement, according to Wichita police records. Barriss has also been accused of making a false alarm,a felony.
Authorities allege that a dispute over an online video game led Barriss to call a Wichita police dispatcher and falsely claim that he had shot his father and was holding two other people hostage inside a Wichita home on Dec. 28.
But Barriss was in Los Angeles, not Kansas, and there was no hostage situation. When Wichita police responded, they shot and killed an innocent man after a brief confrontation.
Andy Finch, 28, was fatally shot by police who have said they believed he was armed when he reached toward his waistband and pointed at officers.
Barriss was scheduled to make his first appearance in a Wichita courtroom Friday afternoon, said Dan Dillon, a spokesman for the Sedgwick County district attorney’s office. Dillon declined to comment on the specific charges until after the hearing. Barriss is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail, jail records show.
Law enforcement sources told The Times last week that the dispute that led to the hoax call stemmed from an argument over an online matchup in “Call of Duty: World War II,” a recently released first-person shooting game.
Neither Barriss nor Finch was involved in the disputed game, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The sources said investigators believe that someone involved in the dispute asked Barriss to make the call.
The shooting happened at the home of Finch’s mother, according to an attorney representing his relatives.
Barriss had a reputation for helping people gain revenge against online enemies and gaming opponents through swatting — placing a hoax phone call about a dangerous situation in order to trigger a massive police response at an address to frighten its occupants.
He pleaded no contest to charges of making false bomb threats in the Los Angeles area in 2016, sparking evacuations at a Glendale TV station and an elementary school and a middle school the year before, records show.
Glendale police believe he was involved in at least two dozen other swatting and hoax calls around Southern California in recent years. The Los Angeles Police Department was investigating Barriss for allegedly making similar calls in late 2017, and had planned a meeting with federal prosecutors before arresting the 25-year-old in connection with the Kansas incident.
Barriss has also been linked to swatting incidents in Illinois and New Hampshire, according to court records.
Earlier this week, Canadian police issued an arrest warrant for Barriss accusing him of placing a similar call just six days prior to the Kansas shooting. Barriss was allegedly targeting the home of a young woman he met online, authorities in Calgary said.
Barriss was arrested by the LAPD earlier this month and agreed to waive extradition and be taken to Kansas to face charges.