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  1. (Reuters) - Two men have pleaded not guilty in federal court in Kansas after they were accused of escalating an online video gaming spat into falsely reporting an emergency, leading police to kill an unarmed man, according to court records. Tyler Barriss, 25, appears in court for his extradition hearing in Los Angeles, California Shane Gaskill, 19, of Wichita, Kansas, and Casey Viner, 18, from a suburb of Cincinnati, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and remained free on $10,000 bond, court records showed. Both of the suspects live with their parents, local media reported. In the so-called “swatting” incident, in which someone falsely reports an emergency requiring a police response, Viner got upset at Gaskill over a video game they played online, federal prosecutors said, and Viner contacted a known “swatter” to punish Gaskill. Prosecutors identified the “swatter” as Tyler Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles, who was being held on Thursday on $500,000 bond in a Kansas jail. He also faces state charges including manslaughter. The state of Kansas will go ahead with its case against Barriss before he faces an array of federal charges, Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Kansas, told Reuters. The federal charges against Barriss include threatening to kill someone, cyber stalking and offering false information in a hoax. The hoax charge can come with a life sentence. Barriss, using a false name, telephoned Wichita authorities and reported that he shot and killed his father, was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint, threatening to set the house on fire and commit suicide, authorities said. A Wichita police officer fatally shot another man, Andrew Finch, 28, after law enforcement officials rushed to his home following the false reports. On Dec. 28, Viner, upset at Gaskill, contacted Barriss and asked him to make the false report to police at an address that had been provided by Gaskill. Viner did not know that Gaskill no longer lived at the address, but Gaskill knew, prosecutors said. After media reports of the shooting, Gaskill urged Barriss to delete their communications and Viner wiped his phone, according to the indictment. Attorneys for Viner declined to comment, while attorneys for Barriss and Gaskill could not bed reached immediately. Barriss and Viner face federal charges of conspiracy and several counts of wire fraud. Viner and Gaskill were charged with obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and Gaskill was also charged with wire fraud and additional counts of obstruction of justice. Source
  2. A Los Angeles man accused of making a hoax phone call that led to the death of an innocent man in Wichita, Kansas, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. 25-year-old Tyler Barriss was arrested in Los Angeles late last month, and authorities there extradited him to Kansas. He made his first appearance in a Kansas courtroom on Friday, court records show. Authorities believe that Barriss made a hoax phone call that sent police to the home of an innocent man, Andrew Finch, on December 28. Finch opened the door with his hands up. But when he briefly lowered his hands toward his waistband, a police officer shot him, believing that Finch could be reaching for a gun. The incident appears to have originated with an online feud over a $1.50 Call of Duty bet. One of the parties to that dispute reportedly approached online user SWAuTistic, who had a reputation for initiating "swatting" pranks against online gamers. SWAuTistic called the Wichita police, pretending to be a deranged man who had already shot his father and threatened to shoot other members of his family. But the intended target of the attack lied about his address, providing the address of the Finch residence instead of his own. That's how police ended up in a standoff with Finch, who had nothing to do with the online dispute. "I heard my son scream, I got up, and then I heard a shot," said Lisa Finch, the mother of shooting victim Andrew Finch, in a video interview with the Wichita Eagle. "They call it swatting," she added. "I didn't even know it was a thing." "I love swatting kids who think that nothing's going to happen," SWAuTistic said in a YouTube interview conducted after Finch's death. The arrest and charging of Barriss indicates that authorities believe he is SWAuTistic. Barriss is also accused of making a very similar call to police in Calgary a week before the Wichita shooting—though thankfully nobody died as a result of that call. He also pled no contest to calling in a bomb threat in Glendale, California, in 2015. Court records show that in addition to the manslaughter charge, Kansas officials have charged Barriss with giving a false alarm and interference with law enforcement. The Kansas prosecutor in charge of the case told the Los Angeles Times that Barriss could face more than 11 years in prison if convicted of these charges. An attorney for the Finch family has called for the criminal prosecution of the police officer who fired the fatal shot. But we've seen no sign authorities are planning to grant that request. Swatting is a real problem in the gaming world. One member of Congress has even proposed legislation to combat it. Article
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