An Ohio gamer gets prison time over a ‘swatting’ call that led to a man’s death

In this file photo, Casey Viner leaves federal court in Wichita, Kansas, on April 3.

An Ohio video gamer who played a role in a hoax phone call that led police to kill a man in Kansas was sentenced Friday to 15 months in prison, authorities said.

Casey S. Viner, 19, was one of three defendants in a case of “swatting” — making a false report to send police somewhere — that led Wichita police to erroneously shoot and kill 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his front door in December 2017.

Authorities said Viner asked one of the co-defendants to make the call because of an argument over an online video game — an argument that turned out not even to have involved Finch.

Viner, of a Cincinnati suburb, was sentenced in federal court in Wichita after pleading guilty to one count each of conspiracy and obstructing justice, the US attorney’s office for Kansas said.

“Swatting is not a prank, and it is no way to resolve disputes among gamers,” US Attorney Stephen McAllister said. “Once again, I call upon gamers to self-police their community to ensure that the practice of swatting is ended once and for all.”

The man who made the call, Tyler Raj Barriss of California, was sentenced earlier this year to 20 years in federal prison.

An argument about a game led to the call

Viner admitted that he had argued with the third co-defendant — a gamer in Wichita — over a multiplayer session of “Call of Duty: WWII,” authorities said.

Viner was upset because the Wichita gamer, a teammate of his during the session, killed his in-game character, according to a police affidavit.

During their argument, Viner threatened to swat the teammate — and the teammate responded by providing an address and saying, “Please try some s–t,” the affidavit says.

Viner then enlisted Barriss to swat the Wichita gamer, using the address that had been provided, authorities said.

The address, it turned out, was not where the Wichita gamer currently lived, but where he used to live, authorities said. Actually living at the address was Fincher, unaware of what was happening.

How the call and the shooting unfolded

On the evening of December 28, 2017, a 911 caller told a dispatcher in Kansas’ Sedgwick County of a shooting and possible hostage situation at Finch’s address, police said.

Dispatchers reported that the caller said he shot his father in the head, and was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint. The caller also warned he wanted to kill himself and light the house on fire, authorities said.

Wichita police went to the home and surrounded it.

Finch came out of the house when police arrived and was shot, according to the US attorney, when he dropped his hands as officers were telling him to raise his arms.

Finch died at a hospital. Officers found no hostage situation or killing inside the home.

Investigators would later learn that the 911 caller was Barriss, calling from Los Angeles through a Wichita number he acquired through a cell phone app, authorities said.

Barriss pleaded guilty to making a false report resulting in death and dozens of other counts related to other calls in which no one was hurt. His plea also covered bomb threats Barriss made to the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington.

The third co-defendant — the Wichita gamer — has been placed on deferred prosecution, McAllister’s office said.

Viner’s obstruction of justice charge relates to his attempt to erase records of his communications with Barriss and the Wichita gamer, according to McAllister’s office.

As part of his sentence, Viner also was ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution and serve two years of supervised release.

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