Who killed Andrew Finch? Would one dollar and fifty cent wager game on Call of Duty trigger you to take someone’s life? Tyler Burris would tell you that he willingly takes such despicable actions on a regular occurrence for pure gamer rivalry.
“Swatting” is a gruesome internet hoax where someone makes a call to a police department with a phony story of an ongoing crime, often referring to hostages or murder, in an attempt to draw a hefty number of police officers to a particular address.
This prank has acquired massive footing across the country within online gamer communities. Those who attempt to cause the “swatting” scenario utilize caller ID spoofing to disguise their number as being local or they call the non-emergency numbers to avoid tracking. But how do the police handle such accusations?
Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston mentioned that on December 28, 2018, the department received a call indicating that Andrew Finch had shot his father in the head and had locked his mother and siblings in a closet. This was a case of “swatting” at it’s worst. Tyler Burris, a California resident, furious at losing a wagering game against Finch proceeded to call the police making these unfounded accusations. Unbeknown to Finch, the offers proceeded to the home prepared for a hostage situation. When Finch opened the door of his residence, where an officer made no attempts at de-escalation and discharged his weapon.
He was killed. He leaves behind two young children.
Finch was innocent and unarmed. Scott Greenfield, defense attorney provided the following statement:
“There’s body cam video of the shooting, but the cops were a good distance away from Finch and the video provides little insight. You can hear a cop yell “show your hands, walk this way.” To the cop, who knows why he’s taking charge, his commands make sense. To a good guy, who couldn’t possibly conceive of why a distant cop was yelling at him, it makes no sense.
There is a good chance he wasn’t sure they were yelling at him, and he was looking around to see who else they might be screaming at. The thought that police would command him to “show his hands,” not the clearest phrase to a good guy, to begin with, must have seemed absurd. Why would a cop tell him to show his hands? He was in his home, with his family, having an ordinary evening.”
Finch was empty-handed. The police saw no glint of steel and they were far from open and expose to any threat. The police responded to Finch with the narrow sighted assumption that he was a killer and should be treated as such.
Yes, the police had good reason to think he was dangerous. But he was harmless. The police claimed that shots were fired the moment that Finch reached for his waistband. Supposing Finch had a gun hidden in his waistband, it would have been understandable. There was a commotion outside. It would have been perfectly legal for him to do so. But he did not have a gun. This causes debate in the police recollection of the events. Either the police saw something that didn’t happen, Finch was struggling to understand what to do with his hands or he was simply trying to pull up his pants. None of these scenarios merit an execution-style death.
This is not the first time that police follow the “shoot first, ask questions later” motto. Refer back to the case of Daniel Shaver, the man slaughtered by Mesa, Arizona Police in January 2016. While cause on camera, Shaver plead for his life while crawling on the ground while struggling to comply with the contradictory commands set out by multiple officers. When his pant began to fall down, he attempted to pull them up to maintain his decency. This cost him his life.
There are countless cases that follow the same dramatic outline: innocent man reaches for his waistband, cop shoots without any attempts at negotiation. Of course, there is a very real possibility that many scenarios result in justified shootings. Moreover, we tend to remember our own actions in the best possible light, even to the point of creating false memories. Yet we have also experienced cases where police actively conspire to create false narrative after the fact.
The common denominator in these stories is that the police perceived a threat and potentially used lethal force against someone who was utterly innocent. They saw danger when there was none. We have created an environment where we have scared police into viewing threats that do not exist and then given them complete reign to use lethal force however they feel fit. The threat does not need to be real but rather simply perceived for our law enforcement to be given the excuse for their actions.
Consider the case a week prior to Finch’s execution within the very same department: officer mistakenly shot a 9-year-old girl inside of her own home.
We do not live in a treacherous world and evil has not come to the United States. Crime remains at historic lows, yet there is an unreasonable belief that enforcement is always under attack. This perception of a constant and growing danger is not only inconsistent with the data, but it is also dangerous. It puts lives at risk. It increases the chances that a police officer will see an innocent gesture as a furtive one. It makes cops less likely to hesitate when an innocent homeowner confronts them after they mistakenly show up at the wrong residence. And it makes them more likely to see a desperate attempt to preserve some dignity as a last-ditch lunge for a gun.