We know what the cops thought. We know because they’re still alive to tell us, and the 911 call that brought them to the house made abundantly clear that they were about to confront a killer who still held hostages. They went in with the idea that there could very well be more death to come, and they surely had no plan of making their wife a widow that night.
What Andrew Finch was thinking is another matter. Police lights outside his home brought him to the door, to look outside to see what was happening. A perfectly normal thing to do, since he couldn’t possibly have a clue why cops were on his street, outside his home. He was a good guy. He had no reason to suspect as he opened the door to his home they were there for him.
“Officers gave him several verbal commands to put his hands up and walk towards them. The male complied for a very short time and then put his hands back down to his waist. The officers continued to give him verbal commands to put his hands up, and he lowered them again.
“The male then turned towards the officers on the east side of the residence, lowered his hands to the waistband again, then suddenly pulled them back up towards those officers at the east.
“The officers on the north side of the street feared the male pulled a weapon from his waistband, retrieved a gun and was in the process of pointing it at the officers to the east. Fearing for those officers’ safety, the officer on the north side fired one round.”
There’s body cam video of the shooting, but the cops were a good distance away from Finch and the video provides little insight. You can hear a cop yell “show your hands, walk this way.” To the cop, who knows why he’s taking charge, his commands make sense. To a good guy, who couldn’t possibly conceive of why a distant cop was yelling at him, it makes no sense.
There is a good chance he wasn’t sure they were yelling at him, and he was looking around to see who else they might be screaming at. The idea that police would command him to “show his hands,” not the clearest phrase to a good guy to begin with, must have seemed absurd. Why would a cop tell him to show his hands? He was in his home, with his family, having an ordinary evening.
Finch was unarmed. He didn’t have any object in his hand that might have been mistaken for a gun, even though there would have been nothing wrong, nothing even unusual, if he had. The cops saw no glint of steel. They weren’t open and exposed, but distant and protected. But the cops had it in their head that he was a killer, and so they saw his every move as a killer’s move.
When the police mindset is that they’re confronting a killer, two things go through their heads. The First Rule of Policing, obviously. But also that this is a man who reduced the value of his own life by his own actions. Killing a killer isn’t the sort of thing that will bring a tear to one’s eye. Some people need killing, and a killer would be that kind of guy. So if it happened that he gave police reason, even slight cause, to take him down, they wouldn’t hesitate. This was a guy who needed killing.
From the police perspective, how would they know it was all a hoax?
A 25-year-old man was arrested in South Los Angeles on Friday night in connection with an alleged “swatting” prank that resulted in a police-involved fatal shooting in Kansas, police said.
Authorities identified the suspect as Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles, KABC-TV reported. They say Barriss is suspected of making a hoax phone call to police in Wichita, Kan., that resulted in the death of an innocent 28-year-old man.
A fight between Call of Duty gamers, apparently over a small bet, started the snowball rolling.
On Twitter, a user whose account has been suspended, claimed credit for making the swatting call, writing “that kids house I swatted is on the news” and later “I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION.” The user who made the call was fighting with another COD player who gave him a fake address — Finch’s — which was how the police wound up at the wrong house. “Someone tried to swat me and got an innocent man killed,” tweeted a user claiming to be the other person involved. The fight between the two users was reportedly over a small bet between $1 and $2, Dexerto reports.
Did Barriss have any grasp of what he set in motion? Like so many online, his actions reflect a disconnect between what a digital idiot considers “lulz” and its real world analogue. His gaming adversary gave a phony address, likely without a thought that it was only phony to him, not to Andy Finch. Did he seriously believe that anyone would be crazy enough to actually call in the SWAT team?
SWATting became very real to law bloggers after it happened to Patterico, Patrick Frey. He survived, but it seemed certain that if this “prank” continued, it would eventually take someone’s life. It took Andy Finch’s life. He left behind two children, ages 7 and 2.
Who knows what Andrew Finch’s wife was thinking about when she woke up that morning? Certainly it wasn’t what suit she would pick out for his funeral, what she would tell her children when they asked why the police killed their daddy. What she would do with the rest of her life now that her husband was dead.
The officer who took down a good guy, unaware of why the police would be yelling at him to show his hands, will suffer regret, probably depression, for having made the decision to pull the trigger. Others will tell him he had no choice, he couldn’t have known that this wasn’t a killer, that if he didn’t shoot, a cop might die.
The officer fired too soon, but that’s a line crossed regularly and with the understanding that as long as he believed there was a possibility of deadly force, however remote, it was his duty to kill. Call of duty.