WICHITA, KAN. March 29, 2019 – A California man was sentenced Friday to 20 years in federal prison for making a hoax call to Wichita police that resulted in an innocent man who had no connection to the defendant or his co-conspirators being shot and killed by police, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
Tyler Barriss, 26, Los Angeles, Calif., pleaded guilty to causing a deadly swatting incident in Wichita on Dec. 28, 2017, as well as dozens of similar crimes in which no one was injured. In those cases, Barriss pleaded guilty to charges filed in federal courts in California and the District of Columbia.
In the Wichita case, Barriss entered guilty pleas to one count of making a false report resulting in a death, one count of cyberstalking and one count of conspiracy. Barriss agreed to accept a sentence of 20-25 years as part of the plea. His counsel argued for the minimum 20, the government for the maximum 25, and the Court imposed a 20-year sentence, believed to be the longest sentence imposed for swatting or hoaxes.
“Swatting is no prank,” McAllister said. “Sending police and emergency responders rushing to anyone’s home based on utterly false information as some kind of joke shows an incredible disregard for the safety of other people.”
“I hope that this prosecution and lengthy sentence sends a strong message that will put an end to the juvenile and reckless practice of ‘swatting’ within the gaming community, as well as in any other context,” McAllister continued. “Swatting is just a terrible idea. I also hope that today’s result helps bring some peace to the Finch family and some closure to the Wichita community,” McAllister said.
In the Kansas case, Barriss admitted making hoax calls that resulted in Wichita police surrounding a house at 1033 W. McCormick. When officers arrived, they believed a man was inside who had killed his own father and was holding family members hostage. The man who came outside to face police, however, had done nothing wrong and did not know about the swatting call. As he stepped onto the porch, police told him to put up his hands. When he unexpectedly dropped his hands, he was shot and killed by a police officer.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
In a case from the District of Columbia, Barriss pleaded guilty to making hoax bomb threats in phone calls to the headquarters of the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
In a case from the Central District of California, Barriss pleaded guilty to 46 counts, including making calls with false reports that bombs were planted at high schools, universities, shopping malls and TV stations. He made the calls from Los Angeles to emergency numbers in Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Utah, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Florida and Canada.
Two co-defendants in the Wichita case, Casey Viner, 19, North College Hill, Ohio, and Shane Gaskill, 20, Wichita, Kan., are awaiting trial.
In Barriss’ plea, he admitted he got involved with Viner and Gaskill after the two had a falling out while playing Call of Duty online. As a result, Viner, who was in Ohio, asked Barriss, who was in California, to swat Gaskill, who was in Wichita. Gaskill noticed Barriss was stalking him online. In messages over the internet, Gaskill dared Barriss to carry out the swat. Gaskill fooled Barriss, however, by claiming to live at 1033 W. McCormick. In fact, Gaskill no longer lived there.
McAllister and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Barnett prosecuted the Kansas case. McAllister commended the FBI, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Wichita Police Department for their work on the Kansas case. In the Middle District of California, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Emel Pence, IV, prosecuted. In the District of Columbia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Matthew Jones prosecuted.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.