Two rival gamers allegedly involved in ‘swatting’ death plead not guilty

By Kyle Swenson | The Washington Post

It ended in actual gunshots and bloodshed, but according to law enforcement, it all started with the hyped-up braggadocio of online gamers.

Late last December, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, two young men separated by more than 800 miles and a time zone, clashed inside the digital playpen of “Call of Duty: WWII.” The Wichita Eagle would later report the disagreement was over an online wager of less than $2.

But according to a federal indictment, Viner, from North College Hill, Ohio, became “upset” with Gaskill, a Kansas resident. Plotting a real-world revenge for the alleged slight delivered in the first-person-shooter Thunderdome, Viner allegedly tapped a 25-year-old from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill.

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“Swatting” – or summoning police to an address under false emergency pretenses – is a particularly dangerous form of Internet harassment. But when Gaskill noticed Barriss had started following him on Twitter, he realized what the Californian and Viner were plotting. Instead of backing down or running for help, Gaskill taunted the alleged swatter via direct message on Twitter.

“Please try some (expletive),” Gaskill allegedly messaged Barriss on Dec. 28, according to the indictment. “You’re gonna try and swat me its hilarious . . . I’m waiting buddy.”

The wait was not long. According to authorities, about 40 minutes after the messages on Twitter, police in Wichita swarmed a local house in response to a hostage situation. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by law enforcement – the result allegedly of Barriss’s fake call to police. The deadly hoax, sparked by an online gaming beef, quickly became international news.

Now Viner, Gaskill, and Barriss are all facing federal criminal charges stemming from the shooting. On Wednesday afternoon, former gaming rivals Viner and Gaskill – 18 and 19, respectively – were in a Wichita courtroom making their first appearance in the case. The Associated Press reported both men pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and wire fraud.

Barriss is currently in custody on state charges of involuntary manslaughter, interference with a law enforcement officer, and giving a false alarm. Neither Viner nor Gaskill’s attorneys have publicly commented on the case. In January, Barriss, who has been accused of other swatting cases in the past, expressed remorse in a jailhouse interview with KWCH.

“I never intended for anyone to get shot and killed,” he told the station. “As far as serving any amount of time. I’ll just take responsibility and serve whatever time, or whatever it is that they throw at me . . . I’m willing to do it. That’s just how I feel about it.” An arraignment for Barriss is scheduled for later this month. No lawyer for him could be reached.

In one bizarre twist, police say that when Gaskill and Barriss were speaking over Twitter, Gaskill gave the alleged swatter an address …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World


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