An online feud over a video game and a wager worth about $1.50 led a man in California to call in a bomb threat that led police in Kansas to mobilize their SWAT team.
In the end, a man who didn’t even play video games or own a gun lay dead in his own doorway. An anxious police officer had shot him almost immediately after he opened the door.
“Swatting” is the term used by online communities to refer to the tactic that gamers use to exact revenge against other gamers. The gamer that feels wronged tries to locate the other gamer in real life. Then, he or she uses technology designed to mask his or her voice and location to call in a report of a violent crime, like a bomb and a hostage situation.
The police, having little other information and few choices in this day and age of terrorism, respond with full force.
In this case, the California gamer who called in the fake threat identified the wrong house and wrong man — and set into motion the death of a man living over a thousand miles away. Now, the Californian is being extradited to Kansas to face criminal charges for his actions.
Meanwhile, the family of his victim, are hoping for a different sort of justice. They’ve asked police in Kansas for answers and aren’t happy with the lack of communication. They may also eventually look to hold both the man who made the bomb threat and the police department that responded liable for the death of the father of two.
When someone dies as a result of another person’s negligent actions, that person can be held liable in civil court for the victim’s wrongful death, a type of personal injury. In cases like this, the party most likely to be able to adequately compensate the family of the victim would be the Kansas police. It’s important to note that swatting is not a new thing — but the Kansas force doesn’t seem to have a protocol that takes that into consideration.
What case can be pursued by the victim’s family will likely depend on what evidence there is that the police overreacted or were negligent. Body cameras and other police evidence will likely need to be reviewed carefully before any case can proceed.
Source: The Verge, “Swatting over Call of Duty game results in deadly police shooting of Kansas man,” Nick Statt, Dec. 29, 2017