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Suspect in fatal "SWATting" call charged with involuntary manslaughter

WICHITA, Kan. -- A California man accused of making a hoax emergency call that led to the fatal police shooting of an unarmed man in Kansas has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Tyler Barriss made his first court appearance in Kansas via video link from jail on Friday following his extradition from Los Angeles. The 25-year-old is also charged with giving false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer. Bond was set at $500,000.

A message left for the local public defender's office wasn't immediately returned.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett told reporters following the brief hearing that he is still reviewing whether any charges will be filed against the police officer, and once he makes a determination that decision would be made public. He said he was awaiting a final autopsy report.

The hoax call reportedly was made after a dispute over a small wager online in a "Call of Duty" online video game tournament, according to Dexerto, a news service focused on gaming.

An investigation is still ongoing as to other people alleged to be involved in a game online, Bennett said, adding that involves a forensic analysis of machines, phones and computers. 

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"There is no other situation quite like this to reference," Bennett said. "I am not going to stand right here and say I am not considering anything else. That would be untrue."

Bennett acknowledged the "sort of novelty" of the case, noting the public interest in it and questions about whether lawmakers may need to change laws when it comes to computer-related crimes.

"The law is catching up with technology," he said. "I guess I am stating what seems fairly obvious to me without making commentary about this case."

In Kansas, involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 31 to 136 months, depending on a defendant's criminal history, Bennett said.

Prosecutors allege Barriss was in Los Angeles when he called police on Dec. 28 with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at a home in Wichita, Kansas. The caller who phoned Wichita police said in a relatively calm voice that he had shot his father in the head and was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint, according to the 911 recording. He said he poured gasoline inside the home and "might just set it on fire."

When police responded to the address, an officer fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he opened his door. Police have said he moved a hand toward his waistband and an officer, fearing he was reaching for a gun, fired a single shot and killed him. Finch was unarmed. 

Finch's family said he didn't even play video games and wasn't the intended target of the prank known as "SWATting," when someone falsely reports a major crime to 911, hoping to incite a massive police response.  

His mother, Lisa Finch, believes her 28-year-old son was murdered by police.

"They didn't knock on the door. My son opened it because he heard something. He screamed and then they shot him," she said.

Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston had said the officer opened fire because he thought the unarmed father of two was reaching for a weapon.

"The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved," Livingston said, adding, "Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim."

Barris has a history of making such hoax calls, which are sometimes called "SWATting."

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