Wichita police say a man who was fatally shot by an officer Thursday evening was unarmed but had put his hands by his waistband multiple times during commands to raise them.
On Friday afternoon, Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston went through a timeline of events and released audio of the 911 call and what dispatchers relayed to officers.
The shooting happened at 1033 W. McCormick.
In the 911 call, a man told dispatchers he had shot his father and was holding his mother and sibling hostage. Livingston said the call was a “swatting” hoax.
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Swatting happens when someone makes a call to a police department with a false story of an ongoing crime – often with killing or hostages involved – in an attempt to draw a large number of police officers to a particular address.
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Swatting has gained traction across the country with online gamers. Those who try to cause the swatting incident will use caller ID spoofing or other techniques to disguise their number as being local. Or they call local non-emergency numbers instead of 911, according to 911.gov.
At 6:18 p.m., an officer working at City Hall received a call from an unknown man who said there was a disturbance with his father. When dispatchers spoke with the caller, he said he got into an argument with his mother and shot his father.
“They were arguing and I shot him in the head, and he’s not breathing anymore,” the caller said.
Asked if he had any weapons on him, the caller said, “Yeah I do.”
He then said he was standing by his mother’s closet holding a black handgun.
“I’m just pointing the gun at them, making sure they stay in the closet,” the caller said.
When the dispatcher asked if he could put the gun down, he said no. He then made further threats.
“I already poured gasoline all over the house, I might just set it on fire,” he told the dispatcher. “Do you have my address correct?”
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He then described a one-story house and again said his father wasn’t breathing.
“It’s giving me anxiety, making me paranoid,” he said.
When the dispatcher asked if the man was white, black, Asian or Hispanic, heavy breathing could be heard. Then the call disconnected.
Warning Graphic Content: Wichita Police Department releases the body camera video of officer-involved shooting. Police say the man shot was a victim of swatting. (Video by Wichita Police Department)
As officers arrived to 1033 W. McCormick, Livingston said they were prepared for a hostage situation and were posted on the east, west and north sides of the house.
However, there was no hostage situation and family members of the man shot — identified by family as Andrew “Andy” Finch — said he doesn’t play video games.
Livingston provided this account of what happened when Finch opened the door:
“Officers gave him several verbal commands to put his hands up and walk towards them. The male complied for a very short time and then put his hands back down to his waist. The officers continued to give him verbal commands to put his hands up, and he lowered them again.
“The male then turned towards the officers on the east side of the residence, lowered his hands to the waistband again, then suddenly pulled them back up towards those officers at the east.
“The officers on the north side of the street feared the male pulled a weapon from his waistband, retrieved a gun and was in the process of pointing it at the officers to the east. Fearing for those officers’ safety, the officer on the north side fired one round.”
Officers removed four people from the house and then searched it. They discovered there were no hostages or deceased people, Livingston said. Emergency medical crews were standing nearby, he said.
“They can’t go in and treat somebody until the house is cleared and made safe,” he said. “An individual was shot at 6:47 and was at the hospital in about 17 minutes.”
During a police briefing at City Hall on Friday afternoon, Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston describes the events that led to the fatal shooting of Andrew Finch by a Wichita police officer. (Video by Fernando Salazar / Dec. 29, 2017)
“Tragic and senseless”
The shooting was a tragic and senseless act, Livingston said.
“The irresponsible acts of a prankster put people’s lives at risk,” he said. “The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved, including the family and our police department. Due to the action of a prankster, we have an innocent victim. If the false police call had not been made, we would not have been there.”
Wichita police are working with federal authorities to locate the person who made the 911 phone call, he said. He declined to comment on where the caller might live.
Officers have been following up on leads found through social media, he said.
On Twitter, more than a dozen people who identified themselves as being in the gaming community told The Eagle that a feud between two “Call of Duty” players sparked one to initiate a “swatting” call.
After news began to spread about what happened Thursday night, the people in the gaming community, through Twitter posts, pointed at two gamers.
“I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION,” said one gamer, who others said made the swatting call. His account was suspended overnight.
According to posts on Twitter, two gamers were arguing when one threatened to target the other with a swatting call. The person who was the target of the swatting gave the other gamer a false address, which sent police to a nearby home instead of his own, according to Twitter posts.
The person who was to be the target of the swatting sent a Tweet saying, “Someone tried to swat me and got an innocent man killed.”
Dexerto, a online news service focused on gaming and the “Call of Duty” game, reported the argument began over a $1 or $2 wager over the game.
This is, Livingston said, the first time in his memory that Wichita police have dealt with a “swatting” call. If they have happened before, Livingston said, they didn’t rise to this level.
“This prank phone call, we don’t see it as a prank,” he said. “It only heightened the awareness of the officers, which we think led to this deadly encounter.”
Around 400 swatting cases happen each year and the consequences can be deadly.