TOPEKA (CAPITOL BUREAU) — After a deadly swatting phone call led to the death of an innocent man, lawmakers are looking to prevent it from happening again.
Two Wichita lawmakers on different sides of the aisle are working together to toughen the penalties against someone who makes a swatting call. Swatting is when a person makes a false report to get a SWAT team to a certain location
On December 28th, Wichita police shot and killed unarmed Andrew Finch. Police said they received a fake report about a shooting and kidnapping at the home where Finch was staying.
Tyler Barriss, 25, has been charged with making a false alarm, interfering with police, and involuntary manslaughter.
“His actions directly led to an innocent man losing his life and he needs to face consequences for his actions,” said Republican State Rep. John Whitmer.
According to current state law, a person who makes a swatting call, that doesn’t result in death, only faces a misdemeanor or low-level felony charge. Which is why Whimter and Democratic State Representative John Carmichael are working together to tighten the penalties.
“We need to make sure that people understand that this is not a joke, it’s not a trick, it’s not a stunt. It’s a serious crime and you will go to jail if you do it,” explained Carmichael.
The Wichita swatting incident isn’t the only one in the state. Last week police in Overland Park were called to a home after receiving a swatting call, although in that case no one was hurt.
“We want to make sure this is a serious felony and will result in someone going to jail,” said Carmichael.
The bill is still in its drafting phase. Whitmer and Carmichael are working with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office to get the bill right so when it goes to the floor it’ll pass with no problems.
“We obviously can’t do anything for what’s happened in the past, but if we can prevent this in the future than we’ve done our jobs,” said Whitmer.
We did reach out to the attorney for Finch’s family, but did not hear back. Last week, civil rights attorney Andrew Stroth told KSN News, the family would like criminal charges brought against the police officer who pulled the trigger. The name of the officer involved has not been released.