SWATting is a dangerous hoax in which someone calls the police and falsely reports that a shooting has happened at a particular address. When police show up at the address, the person who answers the door has no idea what is going on — and is suddenly facing police officers who think the homeowner is armed and dangerous. It’s been going on for years, and has always been a recipe for getting someone killed. And now, that has apparently happened:
Online gamers have said in multiple Twitter posts that the shooting of a man Thursday night by Wichita police was the result of a “swatting” hoax involving two gamers.
. . . .
Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said Thursday night that police were looking into whether the call that led to the shooting was a case of swatting.
Livingston said the department received a call that someone had an argument with their mother, that the father had been shot in the head and the shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage.
“That was the information we were working off of,” he said.
Officers went to the 1000 block of McCormick, preparing for a hostage situation and they “got into position,” he said.
“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”
Livingston didn’t say if the man, who was 28, had a weapon when he came to the door, or what caused the officer to shoot the man. Police don’t think the man fired at officers, but the incident is still under investigation, he said. The man, who has not been identified by police, died at a local hospital.
I have been in that situation — although, thank God, I was not shot when it happened to me. On July 1, 2011, I was SWATted at my home in California, after receiving an email threat a week earlier. I fully described the incident in this post:
At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up.
When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.
They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE?
I told them: Yes, my wife and my children are in the house. They’re upstairs in their bedrooms, sleeping. Of course they’re alive.
Deputies led me down the street to a patrol car parked about 2-3 houses away. At least one neighbor was watching out of her window as I was placed, handcuffed, in the back of the patrol car. I saw numerous patrol cars on my quiet street. There was a police helicopter flying overhead, shining a spotlight down on us as I walked towards the patrol car. Several neighbors later told us the helicopter woke them up. I saw a fire engine and an ambulance. A neighbor later told me they had a HazMat vehicle out on the street as well.
Meanwhile, police rushed into my home. They woke up my wife, led her downstairs and to the front porch, frisked her, and asked her where the children were. Then police ordered her to stand on the front porch with her hands against the wall while they entered my children’s bedrooms to make sure they were alive.
The call that sent deputies to my home was a hoax. Someone had pretended to be me. They called the police to say I had shot my wife. The sheriff’s deputies who arrived at my front door believed they were about to confront an armed man who had just shot his wife. I don’t blame the police for any of their actions. But I blame the person who made the call.
Because I could have been killed.
I never described how slipshod the investigation was, but the FBI investigators clearly did not care about my case. They waited seven months to subpoena the phone records. They failed to subpoena records of other calls made by the SWATter until those records had been purged. Whenever I called them about the case, I got the distinct sense that I was regarded as a pain in the rear.
I got frustrated with them and finally told the agent in charge of the case that they needed to work harder on these cases. I said that SWATting was very dangerous. That one day, eventually, it would end up killing someone.
Now that has evidently happened.
I’ve been shouting about this issue for years, and have warned again and again of the danger.
I should feel vindicated.
Instead, I just feel sick to my stomach.
My heart goes out to the man’s family.
What an awful, terrible thing.
UPDATE: His name was Andrew Finch. He leaves behind two children, ages 7 and 2. His family says he was not armed.
Rest in peace.
UPDATE x2: Body cam footage and audio of the SWATting call have been released.