WICHITA, Kan. — The Kansas police officer who fired the shot that killed a man during a hoax emergency call will not face criminal charges, a prosecutor announced Thursday.
Attorney Marc Bennett said there was reasonable concern at the time
that Andrew Finch may have been armed with a weapon.
The unarmed 28-year-old Wichita man was shot Dec. 28 by police
responding to a California man's fake calls about a killing and
kidnapping at Finch's home. The person who called said he shot his
father in the head and was holding his mother and little brother at
gunpoint in a closet in the house.
The shooting drew national
attention to a practice called "swatting," in which a person makes up a
false report to get emergency responders to descend on an address. The
officer who fired the shot, identified only as "officer number one" was
stationed across the street, and fired believing Finch was reaching for a
weapon when he moved his arm, Bennett said.
"This shooting should
not have happened," Bennett said. "But this officer's decision was made
in the context of the false call. To charge 'officer number one' would
require evidence, not 20/20 hindsight, that it was unreasonable for him
to believe in that moment that the man who came to the door posed a risk
to the officers near the house."
Chicago civil rights attorney
Andrew M. Stroth, who is representing the Finch family, said in a phone
interview after the DA's announcement that the family is devastated.
district attorney's failure to indict the officer is a disappointment,"
Stroth said. "Andy Finch was unjustifiably and unreasonably executed in
the sanctity of his home."
The family believes Wichita city
leaders and the officers are responsible for his death, Stroth said.
Police failed to vet the swatting call, the Finch house did not match
the description given by the caller, and there was no hostage situation
or criminal activity taking place in the home. The family has filed a
civil rights lawsuit.
After the announcement from the district
attorney's office, Wichita police released a news release saying the
incident has weighed on the hearts of the department and the community.
police department also outlined a series of "next steps" it was taking
regarding the incident, including an internal investigation to determine
if policies and training were followed, and a review of training and
policies to include any recommendations. Those entail both
administrative reviews as well as reviews by a Citizens Review Board.
department said it "recognizes the concern this tragedy has caused and
is committed to do everything it can to prevent an incident like this
from occurring again."
Tyler Barriss, 25, of Los Angeles has been
charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly making the deadly
swatting call. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 22.
Gov. Jeff Colyer has signed legislation that will increase the
penalties for making hoax emergency calls when they lead to the injuries
or deaths of others.
The new law takes effect July 1 and calls
for a presumed sentence of more than 12 years in prisons for a first
conviction when a hoax call results in someone's death.