California man gets 20 years in prison for deadly hoax phone call

A California man received a sentence Friday of 20 years in federal prison for a hoax phone call he made that resulted in police officers shooting and killing an innocent man. 

The sentence is believed to be the longest prison term ever issued for a hoax or swatting incident, according to the United States Department of Justice. Swatting is the false reporting of an emergency that sends police or other public safety personnel to another person’s address.

In Dec. 2017, amid a dispute over an online video game, Los Angeles man Tyler Barriss, 26, placed a hoax phone call that sent police in Wichita, Kansas to the home of an innocent man under the belief that a person inside had killed his own father and was holding other family members hostage. The man who was in the house came outside to speak with police unaware of what had transpired.

As the man stepped onto the porch, officers told him to put his hands up. When the man unexpectedly dropped his hands, an officer shot and killed him.

Barriss admitted to making the hoax call following a dispute over the video game Call of Duty. Case Viner, 19, of Ohio and Shane Gaskill, 20, of Witchita had a falling out over the video game. Viner then asked Barriss to swat Gaskill. 

Gaskill noticed Barriss was stalking him online and dared him to carry out the swat. Gaskill then deceived Barriss by claiming he lived at 1033 W. McCormick, when in fact, he no longer lived at that address.

Viner and Gaskill are co-defendants in Barriss’s case and are currently awaiting trial.

Federal prosecutors reached a deal with Barriss, who pleaded guilty to one count of making a false report resulting in death, one count of cyberstalking and one count of conspiracy. As part of the plea deal, Barriss agreed to accept a sentence of 20 to 25 years.

“Swatting is no prank,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister. “Sending police and emergency responders rushing to anyone’s home based on utterly false information as some kind of joke shows an incredible disregard for the safety of other people.”

Separately, Barriss pleaded guilty to making hoax bomb threats in phone calls to the FBI and Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C. Additionally, Barriss pleaded guilty to 46 counts related to making false reports of bombs being planted at high schools, universities, shopping malls and television stations across numerous states.