Rep. Ron Estes, R-Wichita, announced Thursday that he is introducing federal legislation that will increase the severity of punishment for those who participate in swatting.
This follows the shooting death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch, who was killed by a Wichita police officer during a fake police call about a hostage situation and homicide in a home on West McCormick in December.
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.
In the December case, Tyler Barriss, 25, is accused of calling Wichita police from a library in Los Angeles, California. He reported that he was inside 1033 W. McCormick, that he had killed his father and was holding his mom and brother at gunpoint. He told Wichita dispatchers that he wasn't going to put down his gun.
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However, there was no such incident happening inside the home.
When Finch – who was sitting on his couch when police arrived to his home – saw the blue and red lights, he opened his front door to see what was happening outside. Wichita police have said they told Finch to raise his hands, and after he lowered and raised them multiple times, a single shot was fired.
Estes said the Preventing Swatting and Protecting Our Communities Act will be known as the Finch Memorial Act.
"The swatting incident here in Wichita and others across the country highlight the need for a federal law that addresses these crimes," he said in a news release. "That's why I'm introducing legislation to increase the severity of punishment for these criminals and deter others from participating in this dangerous activity."
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. Reports of swatting calls go back to at least 2013. They've happened across the country and in Canada.
Estes' bill would include stricter penalties for swatters, including up to 20 years in prison if someone is seriously hurt because of swatting.
Similar legislation has been introduced at the state level. Last month, Finch's mother, Lisa, spoke for Kansas House Bill 2581, which will also increase the penalties for swatting.
Lisa Finch urged Kansas lawmakers during the hearing to advance the bill that would allow prosecutors to file a murder charge if someone dies during a swatting call.
"Passing this bill will save lives and families from having to deal with everything that goes along with what happened," she said. "It has changed our lives forever."
Finch's family has also filed a federal lawsuit against the city in her son's killing.
Contributing: Jonathan Shorman of The Eagle