(Reuters) – A police officer in Kansas shot and killed an innocent, unarmed man after a prank caller told authorities that he had killed his father and was holding hostages inside the man’s home, police said.
The 28-year-old man was killed during a standoff with police, minutes after they received the hoax call on Thursday evening, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said during a news conference on Friday.
Authorities later learned that the call was a hoax, known as swatting, in which people falsely report an emergency to authorities that requires a police response, usually by Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT, teams.
In several incidents of swatting around the country, online gamers have been accused by the authorities of making the calls.
The shooting “is a tragic and senseless act. The irresponsible actions of a prankster put people’s lives at risk,” Livingston said. “The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved.”
Family members told the Wichita Eagle newspaper that Andrew Finch, a father of two, was the man killed.
“The person who made the phone call took my nephew … two kids’ father,” Finch’s aunt, Lorrie Hernandez-Caballero, told the paper. “How does it feel to be a murderer? I can’t believe people do this on purpose.”
Local and federal authorities are searching for the caller who is responsible for the deadly standoff, Livingston said.
At a little after 6 p.m. on Thursday, dispatch in Wichita received a call from a man who said that he had just shot his father in the head and that he was holding his mother and little brother hostage.
“I already poured gasoline all over the house, I might just set it on fire,” he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the call published on the newspaper website.
Wichita police officers responded, surrounding a house on the city’s west side, Livingston said.
“As the incident unfolded, a 28-year-old male opened the front screen door and stood in the doorway or just outside that doorway,” he said. “Officers gave him several verbal commands to put his hands up and walk towards them.”
A police officer opened fire, shooting once, after the man quickly raised his hands and appeared to point a weapon at the officers, Livingston said.
Police entered the house and found no one deceased, injured and no hostages inside, he said.
Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Alison Williams