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Swatting in California


In December 2017, a dispute over a $1.50 bet between two Call of Duty gamers, 18-year-old Ohio man named Casey Viner and 20-year-old Wichita man named Shane Gaskill, led Viner to ask a 25-year-old California man named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill. “Swatting” is a practice where a person prank calls emergency services in an effort to send law enforcement authorities, specifically a SWAT team, to a certain address.

When Viner gave Barriss an address to place the call, reporting a shooting and kidnapping to authorities. But both men didn’t realize that it was an old home address.

So, when Wichita officers responded to the address, 28-year-old Andrew Finch answered the door. Unfortunately, an officer shot and killed Finch.

At the end of March, Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for making the prank call to police. Viner pleaded guilty in federal court a few weeks ago.

California made it illegal to engage in swatting in January 2014. If an individual is convicted of swatting in the state, he or she must pay a maximum $10,000 fine.

But if swatting involves a serious injury or death, then it is possible the individual could face aggravated assault or homicide charges.

California lawmakers introduced this bill due to the high number of swatting calls many police departments were experiencing. In 2012, pop singer Miley Cyrus was a victim of swatting. A year later, other celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Justine Timberlake were also targeted.

If you have been accused of making a prank phone call to police in Santa Barbara, contact our legal team at Appel & Morse today and schedule a free criminal consultation to let us discuss your case.

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