A hoax emergency call that resulted in police killing an unarmed Kansas man in December 2017 was the catalyst for a tragic chain of events that added two suicides to the heartbreak, the original victim’s family said Friday.
The survivors of Austin Finch, 28, who was killed by police, shared their sorrowful story on the day that 26-year-old Tyler Barriss, of California, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making the “swatting” call -- from more than 1,300 miles away -- that led to Finch's death.
Kansas authorities later dropped the state charges against Barriss in a bid to seek harsher punishment for the defendant through federal charges.
“There are no words to express the toll that it’s taken,” Finch’s sister, Dominica Finch, told the Wichita Eagle.
“There are no words to express the toll that it’s taken.”
She said her 18-year-old niece, Adelina, shot and killed herself in January, just over a year after witnessing her uncle’s death, the paper reported. Then Adelina's boyfriend, 20-year-old Jeremy “J.C.” Arnold, who discovered her body in the apartment they shared, also died in an apparent suicide, according to the paper.
“The involvement of my niece and how she was treated that night (when Andrew Finch died) has taken her life,” Dominica Finch told the Eagle. “The reaction to that has taken the life of another young man.”
Barris apologized to the family at his sentencing Friday.
"If I could take it back, I would, but there is nothing I can do," he told the court. "I am so sorry for that."
Barriss was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making the deadly “swatting” call following a dispute between two people over a $1.50 bet in a "Call of Duty: WWII" video game. While in California, Barriss called Wichita City Hall and gave a bogus report about a hostage situation at a Wichita address. Police then responded to the scene, thinking the call was legitimate. The ensuing events led to Finch's death.
But just hours after the sentencing, Kansas authorities dropped involuntary manslaughter and other state charges as they sought a longer prison sentence in a federal case.
The California native had pleaded guilty in November on 51 federal charges related to fake calls and threats, the most serious one for making a false report, known as “swatting,” resulting in the death of Andrew Finch.
“Swatting” is when someone makes a call to police with a false story of an ongoing crime to get police or emergency responders to go to the address. The word derives from SWAT, the police acronym for Special (or sometimes Strategic) Weapons and Tactics.
Dominica Finch said Barriss got what he deserved. The family now wants to see police also be held accountable, even after officials announced last spring that the officer who fired the fatal shot would not be charged.
Two other men -- who had been playing the video game with Barriss -- face charges in connection with the case. Casey Viner, 19, of Ohio, is expected to plead guilty next week, and Shane Gaskill, 20, of Wichita, is awaiting trial, the Eagle reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.