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Alleged “Call of Duty” swatter arrested in LA after fatal shooting

What apparently started as a $1.50 bet on "Call of Duty" and turned into a Twitter argument ended up in an innocent man's death.

A 25-year-old man has been arrested in Los Angeles in connection with a recent swatting incident in Wichita, Kansas.

According to investigative cybersecurity journalist Brian Krebs, who has been the victim of swatting attacks himself from crooks he has outed on his blog, this incident “reportedly originated over a $1.50 wagered match in the online game Call of Duty.”

“Swatting” involves calling the emergency services and quite deliberately making a false report of a violent incident at someone else’s address so that armed police turn up and storm the place, believing that a serious crime is in progress.

The word comes from the abbreviation SWAT, short for Special Weapons And Tactics, the name given to law enforcement teams that are dispatched to respond to this sort of incident.

At the very best, the outcome of a hoax “swat” call is that the victim suffers a traumatic experience from being confronted by armed police.

Sadly, however, the result was much worse in the recent Kansas incident: a man at the property was shot and killed by mistake in the course of the raid.

As Krebs explains it:

It appears that the dispute and subsequent taunting originated on Twitter. One of the parties to that dispute — allegedly using the Twitter handle “SWauTistic” — threatened to swat another user who goes by the nickname “7aLeNT“. @7aLeNT dared someone to swat him, but then tweeted an address that was not his own.

Swautistic responded by falsely reporting to the Kansas police a domestic dispute at the address 7aLenT posted, telling the authorities that one person had already been murdered there and that several family members were being held hostage.

Police in Wichita, Kansas, have published the audio of the swatting call, during which a male voice can be heard saying:

(Caller) There was an argument with my mom and dad [. . .] They were arguing and I shot him in the head and he’s not breathing any more [. . .] (Dispatcher) Do you have any weapons on you? […] (Caller) Yeah, I do […] a handgun.

Later on, the caller claims to be pointing the gun at his mother and his little brother “to make sure they stay in the closet.”

When the dispatcher asks if he’ll give up the gun, he replies that “if you guys are going to send someone round here, I’m definitely not going to put it away,” and warns the dispatcher that he’s doused the house with gasoline (petrol) and might set it on fire.

Krebs goes on to describe how someone claiming to be the perpetrator made online contact with him shortly after the incident; Krebs ascertained that his anonymous contact semed to have a history of making fake bomb threats and falsely calling armed police to other people’s houses.

According to Krebs, this person told him that “bomb threats are more fun and cooler than swats in my opinion and I should have just stuck to that.”

If the suspect arrested in LA, turns out to be the guilty party in this tragic escalation of a Twitter argument, he may have cause to change his mind about how “cool” such behaviour really is.

Our thoughts go out to the family of the innocent victim in this sordid saga.


21 Comments

Isn’t there some technology that would help police detect swatting?

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If the caller is using a faked CLI (calling line identification, aka Caller ID) or an app to call in, the obvious tools for determining the source of the call won’t work. Also, the caller didn’t phone 911. In the recording of the call you can hear the dispatcher doing her best to find out as much as possible about the reality the situation – “what colour is the handgun”, “which way does the house face”, but the caller doesn’t give anything away, doesn’t get drawn, doesn’t get flummoxed, keeps changing the subject.

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Unfortunately, even if they could reliably spot faked CLIs, dispatchers still have to take every call seriously.

Sadly, there will be more of these. The technology used by the bad guys is just too easy to use, and the technology the good guys have simply isn’t good enough yet.

But, I would think intelligence agencies have some tools that can see a gun through the walls of a house. Now, such technology can be blocked, but it’s pretty obvious to the user that they’re being blocked. Anybody who puts up a Faraday cage or other anti-spying technology is doing it for a reason. So, they would have to take the 911 call at face value if they came across such a situation. But, it’s unlikely most normal people have such tech installed in their houses.

Until we get such technology in the hands of local PDs, we will sadly see more of these. The cops are good, but nobody is perfect. And, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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Can’t see your technology working that well, at least outside areas where houses are made of wood. (In the UK, for example, wooden houses are very rare. Even by Saxon times we had deforested almost all of England, then we got occupied by the Normans who preferred stone anyway, and so it has been ever since.)

Plus, not all hostage situations have guns in then. Plus, in the US lots of houses have guns in them. Plus, apartment blocks.

One possible approach would be to treat guns like cars, and implement regulations and tariffs dealing with their registration, ownership and use. You could call it “gun control” for short. The technology for that already exists – I’m sure that one or two European countries already have it.

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This unnecessary death is 100% the fault of law enforcement. There are numerous ways in which the police could have determined the validity of the call. And that’s a simple fact.

Instead, marginally rational cowboys instinctively reach for their automatic weapons, as this is what gives their life meaning.

And the swatters know this. That’s why they do it. It’s absolutely no different than a doctor tapping your knee with a hammer to measure your reflexes.

The issue gets muddled when people who don’t understand the American Constitution think they can contribute. There’s a vast gulf between “accusation” and “evidence”. In this case, there was only the former, and absolutely none of the latter.

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Your analogy is unfortunate – this is nothing like “a doctor tapping your knee to measure your reflexes”, where both parties are involved in a simple, objective experiment that is well-documented, well-understood, reliable and without danger – and you jolly well know it.

This is like a doctor sending you for tests, deliberately forging the results so they show you to be in imminent danger unless you get emergency intervention, whipping you into a panic and then bundling you in an ambulance to hospital along with a load of fraudulent evidence that leaves well-intentioned hospital admissions staff little choice but to rush you straight into surgery… just so he can laugh at having tricked you into undergoing an operation that it later turns out you didn’t need.

Listen to that call and *then* tell us all that you would have figured it for a hoax, straight off the bat. Today’s system of emergency response depends on the caller telling the truth, or at least not having a chilling gift for lying about life and death “for fun”. For all that the Wichita cops have some hard questions to answer rignt now, your off-the-cuff accusation that they are “marginally rational cowboys” leaves a vast gulf between accuation and evidence, wouldn’t you say?

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You’re missing the point of my analogy (although I chuckled as I read your reply, as it describes almost to a ‘T’ our current American health care system – see “opiod epidemic”).

So let me clarify:
If I know that calling to you, “Hey! look at that up in the sky!” will virtually guarantee that you gaze upward, I can then use that reflexive action of yours to swipe your smart phone that was sitting on the table. You made a foolish assumption that I was telling the truth (say, this sounds like security awareness training, doesn’t it?). After losing one phone, you modify your behavior so that any time your attention is sought to be drawn to something, you first perform a quick inventory of anything valuable that could be at risk. This is as subtle as reaching your hand to grasp your phone as you look toward the heavens.

Swatting has been going on long enough, and LE has encountered it often enough that there is no excuse for them not to have integrated similar caution into their assessment of whether or not to unlock the automatic weapons cabinet. It’s not that they can’t incorporate wisdom and lessons learned into their decision tree – it’s that they simply refuse to do so.

In my above analogy, you may choose not to change your ways. As you continue to lose mobile devices, you’ll keep projecting blame on the lout trousering your valuables, claiming the problem isn’t your reaction, but that he keeps exploiting your trust. In the jungle, the term for the creature who thinks that way is “lunch”.

As to the argument that “time is of the essence”, we’ve seen that fallacy with the American TSA. Tests repeatedly show a dismal (up to 90%) failure of agents’ ability to find contraband. We’re no safer flying than we were before 9/11. But safety was never the motive; it’s control.

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100% is fault of Tyler Raj Barriss, and yes the LE member that shot without justification is wrong and should be charged. At “the least” be prohibited from owning a firearm ever again, and guilty of wrongful death. Barriss is as guilty of murder as someone who rolls a car off a cliff with people in it. The “intent” is all on Barriss.

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SWAT doesn’t knock or ring the doorbell and yell “honey are you home”. The likely blew down the door and stormed in guns drawn, safeties off, with strobe lights and the guy freaked out (who wouldn’t) resulting in his unfortunate death. If you were casually making pancakes or something and then BOOM my door blows down and someone comes in with an AR pointed at your face I think you and 99.9% of other people would either reach for something, some form of protection, or run. You have to remember they’re were (reportedly) 2 hostages and an armed killer in the home which meant that every millisecond counts and that as soon as that door blew open they knew there was a good chance a hostage was going to die. SWAT DID THEIR JOB. DO NOT BLAME THE POLICE YOU IGNORANT CHILD.

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That happens, but is not what happened in this instance. There is video of it.
Everybody makes mistakes, unfortunately some have higher cost than others.

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That’s a sad but fair way of putting it.

The one person in this who didn’t “make a mistake” was the swatter, whose carefully presented lies to the dispatcher seem to fit the words malice aforethought with tragic precision.

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When the police arrive the person inside that house opened the door because he heard noise sadly what he didn’t know is he and his family where part of some situation that NEVER involved around him and after getting a call from dispatch about a hostage situation and then seeing the door open up they only have a fraction of a second to react the Swatter who called needs to be charged with murder as the guys death was all his doing and the 2 teens/kids who started this argument need to be charged as well

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With a username like what he has, it would lead one to believe he does this all the time. I hope he gets life. Law enforcement have it hard enough with killing real suspects and getting flak for it.

Could it have been prevented? Probably. Though the cop could have used a better tactic, he would not have been there had the false report not been called in. Since this is becoming more frequent some changes need to be made to prevent further events. There should always be a suspicious flag for callers who can’t be identified as a potential false report. A special way to handle suck flagged events needs to be inplace. Now the cops have a whole new element to worry about. They are now being used as assassins. They need to train for this so they aint someone else’s pawn.

This issue is only going to happen more often. Protocols and flags need to be created now.

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You make a very good point: this was an assassination, not just a murder. The fact that they person who was killed had nothing to do with it is just a sad mistake. But, it’s the guy who sent SWAT that assassinated the (wrong) guy.

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Apparently the caller was not involved in the game. He was contacted by a player who taunted him to get him to swat what he thought was the taunter, but the taunter gave him a fake home address. I don’t know what the felony murder laws are in Kansas but both the swatter and the taunter could potentially face felony murder charges – which requires neither pulling the trigger nor intent to kill – just a death that was a reasonable possibility from their actions – if those actions can be prosecute as felonies.

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The real cause here was inadequate training of the SWAT member. Firearms are killing machines. They have no other purpose. You should never point a firearm at anyone unless you intend to kill them. This needs to be drilled in again and again.
We have had similar unintended killings of unarmed suspects by police here in Britain, all due to not watching where the gun is pointed and keeping the finger on the trigger. “Buck fever” is a big contributor as our police have very little practical experience of the situations they find themselves in.

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You’re accusing the UK police of causing multiple deaths during lawful arrests, entirely due to accidental discharge of firearms because of amateur-time errors. Is that actually true, or are you just saying that? (I know of a case where an unarmed person who was innocent was controversially shot dead, but those shots were fired precisely and on purpose. In fact, they were deadly accurate because the person was suspected of being wired up to a bomb, so shoot-to-kill was deliberate. Turned out he was just in a tragic panic. Multiple elementary blunders like “not looking where you’re aiming” aren’t something I have heard of.

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