A California man, Tyler Barriss, 26, pleaded guilty yesterday to making a false report that resulted in the death of an unarmed man in Wichita, Kan. after he placed a hoax call last year.
He also pleaded guilty to a total of 50 other charges as part of a plea deal that included making hoax bomb threats in phone calls to the headquarters of the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission, shopping malls, high schools, TV stations and universities.
In a highly unusual and frightening moment for reporters, guests and staffers, the FCC Commission’s meeting room was evacuated on Dec. 14, 2017 when Chairman Ajit Pai made the request for them to immediately leave, stating it was “on advice of security.”
The camera still streamed live from the FCC’s website and it showed dogs being brought in to search the room. Protesters against the shuttering of net-neutrality had been outside FCC headquarters and numerous threats against the FCC, and particularly Pai, had been made, but it was never disclosed why the room was cleared.
“I am deeply grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, local law enforcement, and FCC security officials for their efforts in prosecuting this case and protecting this agency. We will continue working to carry out the mission of the FCC,” Pai said in a statement yesterday following Barriss’ plea deal.
Barriss will be sentenced in January and could receive a jail sentence of 20 years.
The false call that led to the death of Andrew Finch, 28, a father of two, is known as “swatting” – making a false report of an going crime so severe that it requires multiple officers or a SWAT team to show up.
Barriss placed a call claiming to have shot his father and that he was holding other relatives hostage in his home in Wichita, although Barriss had placed the call from Los Angeles.
Finch opened his front door and, following commands from the officers, stepped forward with his hands up.
Authorities said that he reached for his waistband numerous times, and fearful that Finch was going for a firearm, an officer discharged one round, killing him. The officer did not face charges.
According to news reports, Barriss’ call stemmed from an argument he had with Shane Gaskill, 20, of Kansas and Casey Viner, 18, of Ohio, while playing Call of Duty, an online multiplayer video game.
After losing a $1.50 bet, Viner asked Barriss to swat Gaskill, using an address that Gaskill had provided to him that actually belonged to Finch.
Gaskill and Viner have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts, and have pleaded not guilty.