Kansas House passes bill imposing harsher penalty for 'swatting'

TOPEKA, Kan. 6:58 p.m.

Andrew Finch was shot by the police after a "swatting" prank. He was 28-year-old and from Wichita, Kansas. | Photo Undated

A bill that would increase penalties and the severity of the crime of "swatting," or calling law enforcement without valid reason has passed unanimously in the Kansas House.

The Kansas Senate is expected to get the bill next week.


A bill the Kansas House expected to pass Thursday evening is named for a man whose name is at the center of a case that brought the criminal act of "swatting" to the surface of public safety concerns

The Andrew Finch Act informally passed on a voice vote Thursday afternoon, would increase penalties and the severity of the crime of calling law enforcement without valid reason.

Representatives say despite the name -- recognizing a man fatally shot by a police officer on a false emergency, or "swatting" call in Wichita -- the important part of the legislation is showing swatters they will be punished.

Lawmakers agree on imposing stiff penalties for swatting, but a heated discussion Thursday concerned the decision to name the bill after Andrew Finch while the case surrounding his death remains under investigation.

Rep. Tom Sawyer (D) Wichita voiced support for naming the bill after Finch. He says what's being investigated isn't Finch's actual death, but the officer's decision to fire the fatal shot and whether that decision followed proper protocol with the Wichita Police Department.

"That's the question I have," Sawyer said.

Rep. John Whitmer (R) Wichita was one of the lawmakers that invited Finch's mother to testify in support of the bill earlier this month . He says the bill's focus is on making a needed change.

"The message that we wanted to send was not to make this about any particular incident, but to set a precedent and a message about swatting in general," he says. "And about making a consequence for people who make these calls."