Online “Swatting:” A Prank That’s No Laughing Matter


We don’t often think about gaming and online shenanigans leading to anything truly dangerous. But it turns out that in the right situation, those pursuits can lead to jail time and even someone’s death!

Say what?

NBC News recently reported on a terrible and deadly event that involved something called “swatting”—the tactic of contacting police with a false report and getting them to send a SWAT team to somebody’s house. (You know, as a sort of prank.)

In this particular case, it started when a couple of gamers, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, got into a squabble over a $1.50 bet they made while playing the game Call of Duty online. Viner got so steamed about the whole thing that he turned to another online cohort named Tyler Barriss to help him get even.

Barriss, a 26-year-old with a reputation for swatting, called police from L.A. to falsely report a shooting and kidnapping at Gaskill’s address in Wichita, Kansas. Problem is, it was an old address. And when the SWAT team swooped in, the current resident, a totally uninvolved and oblivious guy named Andrew Finch, ended up being accidentally shot and killed in the heat of the moment.

The swatter, Barriss, was given a sentence of 20 years behind bars. And the instigator, 19-year-old Viner, was sent away for 15 months. How’s that for a “funny” prank!? It’s about as funny as sticking a metal coat hanger in a power outlet.

And even though you may never have heard of online swatting, it happens more often than you might expect. Just recently, after winning the $3 million top prize in the Fortnite World Cup in July, 16-year-old Kyle Giersdorf was swatted, and a heavily armed team stormed in in the middle of Giersdorf’s online stream. Fortunately, that situation was defused.

An old country song once warned: Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. But these day’s Mama oughta keep the kids from turning into online idiots. Riding hard and lassoing bulls takes a lot more skill … and it’s probably far safer.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

charitysplace More than 1 year ago
In addition to terrorizing people, how about the cost to taxpayers? SWAT teams do not come cheap.
Big Mike More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reading this, finding it mildly humorous...Then it escalates into something so horribly unfunny and tragic that I wanna cry.
-Emma Bibliophile
Zach Frost More than 1 year ago
This is unreal. What is the cost of a life? Apparently it's $1.50.
More and more proof how much our society needs Christ. So sad, praying for the family of Andrew.
And may God forgive Barriss' soul, if he even has one...
The Mouse Of Non More than 1 year ago
May I say, that pair were idiots. It was a dollar fifty!!! For crying out loud. Two idiots caused more gun violence from police!! (who I'm sure were following protacal but in that serious of a situation things get sticky especially when they think there had been a shooting.) Praying for the man who got shot's family. Our country doesn't need more events like this.