Wichita officer to face civil trial in deadly shooting on ‘swatting’ call

Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 5:45 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - An officer with the Wichita Police Department will face a civil trial in connection with the December 2017 swatting incident at a south Wichita home that resulted in the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Andrew Finch. Justin Rapp was the officer who shot the unarmed man. A U.S. appeals court sided with the Kansas district court in denying Officer Rapp qualified immunity in Finch’s death The court said a reasonable jury could believe Finch was unarmed and unthreatening when Rapp fired the shot that killed him.

Finch’s family brought the excessive force civil suit. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett declined to prosecute Rapp for fatally shooting Finch. The Wichita Police Department conclude Rapp didn’t violate department policy.

The incident started from one of many false 911 calls a man named Tyler Barriss made.

Prosecutors say Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, made the “swatting’ call to a Wichita home near McCormick and Seneca in December, 2017, leading police to believe they were responding to a possible deadly shooting and hostage situation. In recapping the events that led to Finch’s death, the U.S. appeals court said Finch had not committed a crime and “had no way of knowing why police were surrounding his house.”

“As Finch exited the house, multiple officers yelled different commands,” the court document detailing its findings said. “Ten seconds later, Officer Rapp thought he saw Finch reaching for a weapon and shot him in the chest.”

The two others facing charges in connection with this case were identified as Casey Viner, of Ohio and Shane Gaskill, of Wichita. Police said Viner and Gaskill were involved in a dispute concerning an online video game. This dispute led to contact with Barriss who made the false emergency call to the home near Seneca and McCormick, an old address for Gaskill at which Finch lived. Police said Finch was not involved with the game and did not know any of the three involved in the dispute that led to the fake 911 call that prompted the heavy police response.

Earlier this year, a federal judge sentenced Barriss to 20 years in prison.

Along with its conclusion that the civil case against Rapp can move forward, the appellate court also affirmed the district court’s summary judgment on liability claims against the City of Wichita. This decision essentially maintained the city and the WPD as a whole weren’t liable in Finch’s death. The court of appeals dismissed arguments saying, in sum, “[the lawsuit from Finch’s family] has failed to show any deliberately indifferent policies or customs that caused Rapp to use excessive lethal force.”

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