Kansas police investigating fatal 'swatting' prank and ties to Call of Duty argument

Police in Wichita, Kansas, are investigating whether a false report of a hostage situation that led to a fatal shooting of a 28-year-old unarmed man was a "swatting" prank from an argument during a Call of Duty match. Fernando Salazar /The Wichita Eagle via AP

The FBI and Wichita Police Department are investigating a false report that might be tied to a Call of Duty money match and which resulted in the fatal shooting of a Kansas man by police on Thursday.

Police received information on Thursday that a man had shot his father and was holding his mother and younger brother at gunpoint in a closet in his home, Wichita Deputy Police Chief Troy Livingston said during a press briefing on Friday.

"We believe this incident is a case of swatting, which is the act of deceiving emergency services into sending a police response to an address," Livingston said. "We're continuing to follow up on the individual or individuals believed to be responsible for this call."

The FBI estimates that there are around 400 cases of "swatting" per year, according to The Associated Press. Swatting is a well-known issue in the online streaming community, and multiple videos of streamers getting swatted can be found on YouTube. Some swatters use caller ID spoofing to disguise the number they are calling from. It wasn't immediately clear if that was the case in Wichita. This was the first case of swatting Livingston said he was aware of in his jurisdiction.

"If there are more," he said, "obviously, they didn't raise to this level of seriousness, but I do know this is a national trend. We aren't the only community dealing with this."

According to Dextero, a gaming site, and The Associated Press, the address police were dispatched to Thursday evening might have been disseminated during a money match on UMG Gaming, an online gaming tournament host. That match, which was for $1 to $2, according to Dextero and the AP, allegedly included one player threatening another and that second player giving a false address that matches the one Wichita police responded to.

"We woke this morning to horrible news about an innocent man losing his life," Shannon Gerritzen, a UMG vice president, said in an email to the AP. "Our hearts go out to his loved ones. We are doing everything we can to assist the authorities in this matter."

A call was placed to Wichita City Hall on Thursday, and personnel at the building gave a phone number and information about a potential hostage situation to police. At that time, a call was placed to that number.

The caller said he had gotten into an argument with his mother and had shot his father in the head and was holding his mother and brother hostage. The caller also said he had doused the house with gasoline and threatened to set it ablaze.

Officers were dispatched to the address, and when a 28-year-old man exited his home, he was given several verbal commands, Livingston said, and told to keep his hands above his head. The man dropped his hands to his waist several times, Livingston said, and was shot when he dropped his hands to his waist and quickly lifted them back up.

The man was pronounced dead at a hospital about 30 minutes later. The officer, who is a 7½-year veteran of the force, according to Livingston, has been placed on administrative leave.

"Due to the actions of a prankster, we have an innocent victim," Livingston said Friday. "I will tell you that the detectives have done an outstanding job overnight following up leads and looking at different social media. They have some promising information at this time."

According to the AP, Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts Democrat, introduced an anti-swatting bill in 2015 -- then was herself the victim of swatting. Armed officers in 2016 responded to an anonymous call claiming an active shooter was at Clark's home.