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Wichita cops start flagging potential swatting addresses

Police in Wichita, Kansas — scene of a deadly swatting hoax in 2017 — will now mark addresses in their 911 system where residents feel they may be targets of that kind of dangerous online harassment.

The Wichita Eagle reported on Friday that police began soliciting these alert notices this week. Residents may request a form if they feel they are or may be a target of a swatting attempt. “Anyone can be the target of swatting, but victims are typically associated with the tech industry, video game industry, or the online broadcasting community,” Wichita Police Department Officer Paul Cruz said in a news release.

Swatting is a hoax call meant to draw a large police response to the victim’s address, taking its name from the SWAT team hoaxers hope to bring to the scene. In the Wichita case, police were summoned by Tyler Barriss, 26, of Los Angeles, on a report of a homicide and potential hostage situation. The address Barriss gave them was the former address of someone involved in an argument over a Call of Duty: WWII online match. The current resident, 28-year-old Andrew Finch, had nothing to do with the game; he was shot and killed by police who thought he was reaching for a weapon.

Barriss pleaded guilty to causing Finch’s death and, in March, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. Finch’s family has a civil lawsuit pending against the city of Wichita. The officer who shot Finch is still employed by the Wichita Police Department.

Wichita Police say their alert database will extend to all first responders in the city and surrounding Sedgwick County. “This alert would not minimize or slow emergency services but rather would create awareness for officers responding to potential swatting incidents,” Cruz said.

Two weeks ago, Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who won the inaugural Fortnite World Cup on July 28, was swatted as he livestreamed the game with friends. Giersdorf, 16, was able to quickly defuse the situation, however, as one of the officers lives in his neighborhood, knows who he is and that he plays video games professionally. Still, police came to his home with weapons ready.

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