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!
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.