When a serial bomb-report hoaxer reported a fake hostage-taking on behalf of a gamer upset at a $1.50 wager, he set in motion a string of events that ended with a Wichita police officer murdering an innocent bystander on his own doorstep, without warning.
There has been an understandable focus on the hoaxer, Tyler Raj Barriss, and "Baperizer" and "Miruhcle," the players whose dispute ended with Barriss reporting a fake hostage-taking.
But as numerous commentators pointed out at the time, this "successful" swatting raises urgent questions about American police, and their heavily armed shoot-first posture. After all, swatting is only scary because everyone understands that if the cops are told there's an "active shooter" at some given address, there's a reasonable chance they'll murder one or more people, more or less at random, when they arrive.
That was certainly the case for Andrew Finch, the 28 year old man whom cops murdered in Wichita. He wasn't involved in the dispute, and merely had the misfortune to live at a random fake address supplied by one of the gamers in the dispute. The cops who showed up at his address shot him dead on his doorstep, though he was unarmed, terrified, and had made no threatening moves.
Finch's family are now suing the Wichita police, hoping to spur a reform of police procedures and prevent future events of this kind. Wichita has 11 times the national average of fatal police shootings, one per 120 officers.
"The family wants justice and reform - they want to make sure Andy's legacy means something and maybe some other family won't have to experience the tragedy they are experiencing because of a change in policy and procedures," said civil rights attorney Andrew M. Stroth, who is representing the family. His Chicago law firm specializes in police shootings cases nationwide.
Wichita police officers have been involved in at least 29 shootings between 2010 and 2015, resulting in at least 15 deaths, according the lawsuit. In most of these cases, the city has declined to release the names of the involved officers.
"Two children - a 7-year-old boy and an almost 2-year-old girl - lost their father because of the unjustified and unconstitutional acts of the Wichita Police Department as well as the policies, practices and custom of the WPD," Stroth said.