On Thursday evening, police in Wichita, Kansas, fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew “Andy” Finch, an unarmed man who saw flashing blue and red lights outside his house and went out onto his front porch to see what was going on.
Finch was killed just moments after he stepped outside. The Washington Post reports that Finch was the 973rd person shot and killed by a police officer in 2017 out of at least 976. Sixty-eight of those people were unarmed.
This situation is made even more tragic because the officers never should have been at the house in the first place. The officers were responding to a 911 call where a man told dispatchers that he had shot his father and was holding his mother and sibling hostage.
However, it turns out the 911 call was a “swatting” hoax — a prank popularized by online gamers that involves making a fake call to police in order to attract a great number of police officers to a certain address. It is unclear how many swatting calls are made in the U.S. each year, though the FBI estimated in 2013 that the number was around 400.
Finch had not shot anyone, nor was he holding anyone hostage; he was merely hanging out at home with his family after the holidays. Additionally, he seems to have had no connection to the gamers who called in the prank.
According to The Wichita Eagle, the incident began as an argument between two Call of Duty players over a $1 or $2 wager over the game. When one gamer threatened the other with a swatting call, the target provided him them with a false address.
In response to the 911 call by the swatter, WPD officers surrounded Finch’s house on all four sides Thursday evening and prepared themselves for a hostage situation. When Finch opened the door, Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said that officers told him several times to put his hands up and walk towards them, but Finch would only comply for a short time period before putting his hands back down at his waist. When Finch turned towards officers on the east side, Livingston said Finch appeared to reach for a weapon at his waist, and so the officer on the north side of the house fired one shot. Finch was declared dead at a nearby hospital.
As the body camera footage released on Friday confirms, the entire situation unfolded very quickly.
Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, was in the home with her son when he went outside to investigate the commotion outside, completely unaware that the police were responding to reports of an active shooter and hostage situation. She heard her son scream, then heard a shot.
Lisa went to investigate after hearing the shot, and found that the side door in the kitchen was open and police were standing there.
“The police said, ‘Come out with your hands up,’” Lisa Finch told the Wichita Eagle. “[The officer] took me, my roommate and my granddaughter, who witnessed the shooting and had to step over her dying uncle’s body.”
The police handcuffed the family and took them downtown to the police station in separate police cars. Finch’s mother wants the people behind the swatting call to be brought to justice, but she also wants the officer who fired the fatal shot to be held accountable too.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” Lisa asked. “Why didn’t they give him the same warning they gave us? That cop murdered my son over a false report.”
On Friday, the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss on suspicion of making the swatting call. The officer who fired the fatal shot, a seven-year veteran of the squad, has been placed on paid administrative leave, as per WPD policy.