An innocent man has been shot dead by police in Kansas after a prank call led armed officers to his home.
A Wichita police officer shot and killed Andrew Finch, a father of two, after a prank caller told authorities he had killed his father and was holding hostages inside the man’s home.
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.
The 28-year-old was killed during a standoff with police, minutes after they received the hoax call, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said during a news conference.
Online gamers have been previously been accused of wasting police time and endangering the public with prank calls, and authorities are now searching for the caller who was responsible for instigating the deadly callout, Mr Livingston said.
At a little after 6pm on 27 December a call was made from a man who claimed 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 Wichita Eagle website.
Wichita police officers responded, surrounding a house on the city’s west side, Mr 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.”
Mr Finch was unarmed and followed commands to raise his hands but then failed to keep them raised as instructed by police, Mr Livingston said, and an officer feared he was drawing a gun. An officer opened fire and shot once.
Police entered the house and found no one deceased or injured and no hostages inside, Mr Livingston said.
Mr Finch’s mother, Lisa Finch, told The Wichita Eagle her son had heard movement outside and was shot by officers when he opened the door to investigate.
The shooting “is a tragic and senseless act. The irresponsible actions of a prankster put people’s lives at risk,” Mr Livingston said. “The incident is a nightmare for everyone involved.”
“The person who made the phone call took my nephew … two kids’ father,” Mr Finch’s aunt, Lorrie Hernandez-Caballero, told The Wichita Eagle.
“How does it feel to be a murderer? I can’t believe people do this on purpose.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money to go towards Mr Finch’s funeral costs.
Agencies contributed to this report