A swatting prank this week over a Call of Duty game has resulted in the death of an unrelated father. Swatting is the act of calling in a hoax of a serious crime to emergency services, such as a hostage situation or a shooting. The end goal is to get a large number of armed police to arrive at the target address.
Swatting has become a controversial 'prank' among the online gaming community, with gamers holding a grudge attempting to disrupt players of competitive games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Call of Duty. As well as this, swatting has been used on celebrities and companies, with the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber subject of this hoax alongside the home of a Bungie executive, developer of Halo and Destiny.
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Concerns have been raised multiple times about the dangers of the practice, and this week the worst fears over what could happen with swatting have come true. A dispute over a $1.50 wager on a Call of Duty match led to the calling in of a fake report of a homicide and possible hostage incident. After the hoax call was made regarding an address in Wichita, Kansas, on December 28, police shot and killed father of two Andrew Finch.
The argument itself started between Call of Duty players Miruhcle and Baperizer after a match loss, with the dispute eventually descending into threats of swatting. Baperizer contacted notorious swatter Swautistic for assistance, and Miruhcle then taunted the pair to come after him, providing a Wichita address at which Finch resided. Finch, 28, was not involved in the dispute at all, and was not a gamer according to his family.
Swautistic, who has since changed his user name, has a long history of swatting, attempting to swat pro Call of Duty players such as Tommy 'ZooMaa' Paparratto among others. After the incident, Swautistic did not accept any responsibility regarding the incident. However, 25 year-old Tyler Barriss has been arrested after the incident, who is believed to be Swautistic.
The FBI suggests that around 400 cases of swatting occur annually in the United States, and this incident goes to show exactly how dangerous this so-called prank can be. Blame will be passed around over the death of Andrew Finch, from the swatter himself to the giving of false information as a taunt, through to the initial armed police reaction to the incident and the eventual shooting of an unarmed man. At the root, however, still lies the problem that swatting is seen by some as an acceptable reaction to unhappiness with the outcome of a multiplayer video game, and this is something that desperately needs to be addressed.
Source: The New York Times