The city of Wichita, Kansas, has reached a $5 million settlement with the family of Andrew Finch, who was shot and killed by police responding to a swatting call in 2017.
The incident arose from a dispute between two players in an online Call of Duty match, which led one to engage the services of a notorious swatter who went by the name of Swautistic. But the target of the swatting provided a false address, which led police to Finch's home. They surrounded the house, but when Finch stepped out onto his porch to see what was going on, police officer Justin Rapp shot and killed him almost immediately. Finch was unarmed and unaware of the police action around his house.
Criminal charges were not filed against Rapp in the case, but the family understandably brought a lawsuit against the city in 2018. According to the Wichita Eagle, the city fought the family in court for five years through appeals and attempting to have it thrown out. Wichita was eventually removed from the suit, leaving Rapp as the sole defendant, but the city is still responsible for Rapp's legal costs. The settlement will cost Wichita $2 million, while the balance will be covered by insurance.
"It has been difficult to say the very least," a Finch family spokesperson said after the council voted in favor of the settlement. "I’ve watched this family go through disappointment after disappointment after disappointment and finally today we came together as a community. We got this done."
“I’m just glad that, as a community, we can find closure and do our part to bring closure to the family,” Wichita mayor Brandon Whipple said. “This is just an awful situation.”
Swatting is a "prank" in which someone—typically an aggrieved gamer—makes a false report of a serious crime, like a murder or hostage taking, in order to trigger an armed response from police against someone who has no idea it's coming. It's dangerous as hell for obvious reasons, and some high-profile streamers have begun warning their local police departments about the practice in order to avoid falling victim to it—an effort that doesn't always produce results.
The swatter in the Finch case, eventually identified as then 25-year-old Tyler Burriss, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to 51 charges related to fake calls and threats. One of the two gamers involved in the dispute that led to the swatting, Casey Viner, was given a 15-month prison sentence, while the other, Shane Gaskill, was given a deferred prosecution, essentially meaning that the charges would be dropped against him if he met certain conditions, including paying $1,000 in restitution as well as other penalties. According to a KSN.com report, however, he violated the terms of the deal and was later sentenced to 18 months.
After Finch's killing by police, the state of Kansas passed an "anti-swatting bill" that mandated prison sentences of 10 to 41 years for anyone who made such a call that resulted in death or extreme injury.
Finch's killing represented the first fatal swatting in the US, but it's not the only one. In 2020, 60-year-old Mark Herring suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after surrendering to police who had surrounded his home following a swatting call.
Rapp, the police officer who actually shot and killed Finch with no warning, did not face charges despite eventually admitting that he did not see a gun in Finch's hands before firing. In fact, after being passed over for promotion for showing "lack of sound judgement" in 2020, he was promoted to detective in 2022.