Kansas Man Killed by Police in Swatting Prank

UPDATE: A 25 year Los Angeles resident, Tyler Barriss, has been arrested by police.  Barriss has served time in California for making threats.  As a repeat offender and possibly being charged by both state and federal authorities, this idiot’s game is likely “game over” for the rest of his life.

Swatting, the practice of calling in a fake 911 call telling police that there is a kidnapping in progress or man with a gun has become all too common over the last few years.

This week an unarmed man was shot by police who had been told by the prankster that the man had shot his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage.

The man later died at a local hospital.

The practice of swatting has become too popular – hundreds of cases a year.  My guess is that Wichita being a relatively small city (under 400,000) probably has not had to deal with this issue.  SWAT in all but the very largest cities is under-trained and unfortunately,  can wind up in situations like this.  While the officer has been suspended, it is very unlikely that he will face any disciplinary action.  In the mean time, the family is left to deal with this crisis.

In this case the gamer who initiated the prank basically admitted it on Twitter just before he changed his Twitter handle.  I assume the police have his identity and IP addresses or will very soon (I assume Twitter will cooperate fully – having customers die because of something that happened on their platform is very bad for business).

The prankster admitted to the prank but disavowed responsibility in a tweet after the man was shot – see below.

Krebs on Security was able to capture several weeks worth of tweets and in a direct message conversation, the man admitted to making money doing this and also fake bomb threats.  I am sure that Brian will be turning over those messages along with the DM conversation that he had with the prankster to investigators.

This is one of those situations where the police have a wealth of information regarding the person who committed this crime.  In another case of swatting, a man in Maryland is facing 20 years in prison.

The issue here, is, besides that someone died needlessly, that there is no security in the 911 system or in Caller ID.  Both were designed decades ago with zero thought to security.    The odds of this problem being fixed any time soon (it would cost billions to fix) are about zero.

The best we can hope to do is educate the police.  And train them.  I hate to say this, but it appears that the officer who shot the man panicked.  The man never produced a gun and never pointed anything, apparently, at the police.  He was unarmed according to the Wichita Police Chief.

With regard to the guy who phoned in the false report – I hope he rots in jail for a very long time.  I have zero sympathy for him.

Whether the family of the dead man sues the police department is unknown, but if I were taking bets, I predict the City of Wichita will be writing a settlement check with a lot of zeros to make this go away.  Taxpayer dollars at work as most cities are self insured.  As an example, Denver, Colorado has written checks to the tune of tens of millions of dollars over the wrongful actions of police over the last few years.

Information for this post came from Krebs on Security.

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