Family files lawsuit after son killed in 'Swatting' hoax call
03/05/2018 5:37 pm PST
A controversial case makes headlines around the world and leaves many people asking the same question: How does this happen?
An unarmed father of two opens his door and is gunned down by police, the result of a deadly game called "Swatting."
Three days after Christmas 2017, a 911 operator in Wichita, Kanasas takes a call from a man claiming to be a killer.
911: "This is 911, what's going on?"
Caller: "I recently got disconnected. I had told you guys everything that happened about the argument with my mom and dad."
911: "OK, tell me exactly what happened."
Caller: "They were arguing and I shot him in the head, and he's not breathing anymore."
911: "What kind of weapons do you have?"
Caller: "A handgun."
The caller warned that his mother and brother could be next.
Caller: "I'm just pointing the gun at them making sure they stay in the closet, my mom and my little brother."
911: "OK, is there any way you can put the gun up?"
Caller: "I already poured gasoline all over the house, so I might just set it on fire."
911: "OK, well we don't need to do that, OK."
Caller: "Do you have my address correct?"
Cops had the address, and within minutes they were swarming the house on McCormick Street on Dec. 28, 2017.
Inside Andy Finch was on the couch when he heard the commotion outside and went to check it out. Video from a police body-camera shows what happened when he opened his front door.
"Show your hands! Walk this way!" an officer shout at Finch.
When Andy Finch doesn't comply, one of the officers opens fire from across the street.
Ali Abdelhadi, who lives with the family, was making his way to the front of the house when he heard the shot.
"Right before I made it to this door, I heard a shot and a drop like a person dropped on the floor," said Abdelhadi. "I saw him laying here, basically his feet were facing this way, his head that way."
Just inside his doorway, Finch lay bleeding to death.
"They were all just sitting in a house having a respectful evening, you know, being a family, and just to open your front door and get shot on by people who are supposed to be looking out for you," said Nikki Finch, Andy's sister.
Before Andy's mother Lisa Finch or Abdelhadi could check on Andy, police ordered them out of the house.
"Lisa was coming out of her room and she asks me 'What's going on?' So I look back at her and tell her 'I don't know but they're telling us to get out,'" said Abdelhadi.
Both were immediately handcuffed and placed on the curb.
"We were asked who else is in the house, I told them, 'Well, besides me and Lisa, it's Andrew, the guy you guys shot, and the granddaughter of Lisa was here," said Abdelhadi.
Too afraid to leave her room, the 17-year-old girl was still upstairs when cops ordered her outside.
She had to come down, the granddaughter, and step over her uncle, who is gasping his last breaths?
"Exactly, unfortunately," said Abdelhadi. "And that's what she was also telling the officer, that 'My uncle is laying,' and the officer kept saying 'That's not your uncle, we didn't shoot your uncle.'"
But her uncle had in fact been shot by a seven-year veteran of the Wichita Police Department. Once cops cleared the house, paramedics rushed him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:03.
Still handcuffed on the curb in below-freezing temperatures, Lisa Finch wasn't even told that her son was dead. Before long she was taken in for questioning along with her granddaughter and Ali Abdelhadi.
"They put us in separate vehicles, we were taken downtown, placed in separate rooms and interrogated," said Abdelhadi.
At the police station they learn Andy Finch had died. They were also told about the fake 911 call that started it all.
"Swatting" is a dangerous new phenomenon in which a caller reports a false emergency in order to draw a large police response to another person's address.
"The false calls include serious law enforcement emergencies such as bomb threats, murder, hostage-taking or other alleged serious incidents," said Wichita Police Deputy Chief Troy Livingston.
But why was the Finch family the target of a swatter?
Police responded to a serious 911 call of a man claiming he had just murdered his father and was holding the rest of his family hostage. But what Wichita Police didn't know at the time is that phone call wasn't made in Kansas.
Seconds after Andy Finch opened his front door, the father of two was shot and killed by a Wichita police officer. But when the chaos cleared, no one knew why, not even the cops.
Andy's mother, niece and a family friend also in the house at the time were handcuffed and hauled in for questioning. That's when they learned about the fake 911 call that sent cops to their house with guns blazing.
The caller claimed he'd shot his father and was holding his mother and brother hostage. The operator had the address on McCormick Street that the caller had given her. But at that house, no one was dead or being held hostage.
The only person killed that night was Andy Finch, and at first cops didn't even believe that he was a victim -- initially they believed he was a suspect.
But Andy Finch wasn't a suspect. The actual suspect was 1,300 miles away in Los Angeles -- the man who allegedly placed what turned out to be the prank 911 call.
Tyler Barriss was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Andy Finch. His 911 call is believed to be the first fatal instance of "Swatting."
"It's my personal belief that I didn't cause someone to die," Barriss said in an online interview, claiming he was paid to make the Swatting call that night.
"I don't believe that I'm the only guilty party involved in this whole incident, considering I was contacted and almost instructed to Swat," Barriss said.
Like most Swatting calls, he says it was done to settle a dispute over a video game. The only problem: the person who paid him gave him the wrong address.
Wichita Police say Tyler Barriss is the one solely responsible for Andy Finch's death.
"If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there," Wichita Police Deputy Chief Troy Livingston said in a news conference.
According to Andy's brother Jerome Finch, Tyler Barriss does take some of the blame.
"I've actually wrote him and he wrote back and he does say that he has a measure of guilt," Jerome Finch tells Crime Watch Daily.
But the Finch family says there's plenty of blame to go around.
Do you think police handled this correctly?
"It was not handled correctly at all. My brother should still be alive," said Jerome.
Wichita Police say a 7-second clip from an officer's body-camera proves the officer had no choice but to open fire.
"If you look closely at the video you'll see the movement with his hand, which is what gave the officer such concern," said Livingston.
Deputy Police Chief Livingston says Andy Finch ignored repeated commands from his officers to put his hands up.
"You hear the officer primarily that has the Axon body-camera, but you have officers from the other sides also giving commands and they were all consistent about 'Put your hands up, walk towards us,' but he continued to drop them down by his waistband," said Livingston.
Andy's mother Lisa believes it's unlikely her son could hear or understand what cops were yelling.
"Andy Finch is dead because the officers within the Wichita Police Department didn't follow policies or procedure," said the family's attorney Andrew Stroth.
Andrew Stroth is the Finch family attorney.
"Even if you take the swatter call as truth, the reaction by the Wichita Police Department was unacceptable," said Stroth.
He says mistakes were made the moment police arrived on scene. This is what the caller told the 911 operator:
911: "Is this a one-story or two-story house?"
Caller: "It's one-story."
But the Finch's home is two stories.
"The house didn't match the description," said Stroth. "Let's say there was a hostage situation. Andy could have been a hostage walking out of the house. Let's say the house was doused in gasoline. Well why are you shooting into the house?"
Lisa Finch believes the bullet that killed her son could've killed her entire family.
"Not only did they shoot and kill Andy Finch, immediately following the shooting, the family was handcuffed out in the cold for an hour and then taken as suspects into custody at the Wichita Police Department and interrogated for an hour," said Stroth.
The Finch family recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.
"It's a tragic and unjustified use of force," said Andrew M. Stroth.
The family wants an outside agency to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting. They're also pushing for passage of a new state law that would allow for tougher penalties if a Swatting prank ends in death.
If convicted of involuntary manslaughter, Tyler Barriss faces a maximum 11-year prison sentence.
"I hope and I am almost sure that that bill will be passed, it will save lives," said Lisa Finch.
Meantime the seven-year police veteran who shot and killed Andy Finch has not been publicly named or criminally charged. He's been placed on desk duty during the investigation.
"How can a guy shot and kill someone unjustifiably and still have his job?" said Stroth.
For now, the department is standing by the actions of its officers that night.
"One of our core values is protecting the community. That's what the officers were trying to do last night," said Livingston.
"The fact that the city of Wichita is trying to defend this officer and not release the officer's name and not take responsibility is unacceptable," said Andrew M. Stroth. "Wichita, Kansas will get to be defined in part by how they handle the Andy Finch lawsuit."