How Wichita's deadly 'swatting' call affected national laws 1 year later

Published: Dec. 11, 2018 at 5:41 PM CST
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Friday, Dec. 28 marks one year since Andrew Finch's death. On the night of Dec. 28, 2017, Finch was shot and killed at his front door because of a hoax call to police made from more than 1,300 miles away.

The Wichita police officer who fatally shot Finch was one of several responding to what they thought was a hostage situation. It turned out to be a hoax call that stemmed from an argument concerning an online video game. . Finch was not part of that argument nor the game from which it escalated.

Today, Kansas has stricter laws to punish those behind "swatting" calls and several other states are following suit. Still, even lawmakers behind Kansas' law say it's not enough.

Finch's death sparked national momentum to pass laws to more seriously punish people for making hoax calls to draw a heavy law-enforcement presence.

In connection with the case,

for making the swatting call that led to Finch's death.

So far, three lawmakers from three states introduced three different bills to Congress related to "swatting" penalties. None of them made it out of the House.

"We need federal statutes there," Kansas Rep. John Carmichael says.

Carmichael, alongside Rep. John Whitmer and and Rep. Patty Markley introduced Kansas' anti-swatting bill, "The Andrew Finch Act."

"It was obvious to a number of us that Kansas law was not prepared to deal with this new technology crime," Carmichael says.

Before the Dec. 28, 2017 call that led to Finch's death, Kansas law listed this type of crime (false emergency call) as a misdemeanor or

low-level felony.

"When a call like this results in death or harm to someone, there needs to be a punishment that fits that type of crime, right?" Carmichael says.

It only took a few months for "The Andrew Finch Act" to pass, increasing the penalty to different levels of felonies for making a "swatting" call. This includes the possibility of facing a murder charge for making such a call if it ends in someone's death.

Viet Hoang owns the Next Level Cafe in Wichita, a lounge for games to enjoy drinks, snacks and socializing while playing video games.

Hoang says the number of people in the gaming community who "swat" is small, but he thinks having laws in place punishing the act will help prevent it.

"Something like this should have been done," he says of enforcing stricter punishment for the crime. "This is dangerous. This is serious. This is not a joke and if you (make a "swatting" call) you are going to jail," Carmichael says.

Friday, Finch's family, friends and others in the community showing support for Finch's family gathered outside his former home near McCormick and Seneca. A vigil followed at moment of silence at 7:03 p.m., a year to the minute from when Finch was shot.

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