An unarmed man was shot dead by police outside his home in Kansas after a “swatting” prank that followed an argument over the online video game Call of Duty.
The FBI are investigating a series of events that was believed to have begun with an online bet for a few dollars in the Call of Duty game, then escalated to a hoax 911 call by one of the players.
Police have not disclosed the name of the man who died on Thursday night, but relatives identified him as Andrew Finch, 28.
Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said the hoax call was a case of “swatting,” in which a person makes up a false report to get a SWAT team to descend on an address.
“Due to the actions of a prankster we have an innocent victim,” he said.
A 25-year-old man suspected of being the hoax caller was later arrested by police in Los Angeles.
Police played audio of the call to 911. A man said his father had been shot in the head. He said he was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint. The caller, speaking with relative calm, said he poured petrol inside the home “and I might just set it on fire.”
Several officers arrived and surrounded the home, braced for a hostage situation. When Mr Finch went to the door police told him to put his hands up and move slowly.
But Livingston said the man moved a hand toward the area of his waistband – a common place where guns are concealed. An officer, fearing the man was reaching for a gun, fired a single shot. Mr Finch died a few minutes later at a hospital. Livingston said Mr Finch was unarmed.
The officer, a seven-year veteran of the department, is on paid leave pending the investigation.
The Finch family on Friday allowed reporters inside their home. Lisa Finch told them her son was not a gamer.
“What gives the cops the right to open fire?” she asked. “That cop murdered my son over a false report in the first place.”
Lisa Finch said the family was forced outside barefoot in freezing cold and handcuffed after the shooting. She said her granddaughter was forced to step over her dying uncle and that no guns were found in the home.
Dexerto, an online news service focused on gaming, reported that the series of events began with an online argument over a $1 or $2 wager in a Call of Duty game on UMG Gaming, which operates online tournaments.
“We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life,” UMG spokeswoman Shannon Gerritzen said.
“Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We are doing everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter.”
The FBI estimates that roughly 400 cases of swatting occur annually, with celebrities among the targets.
Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat congresswoman, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015.
She was then herself a victim of swatting with armed officers responding to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at her home.