Three men in three different states were charged in "swatting" cases connected to a Los Angeles man accused of conducting a hoax that resulted in the fatal police shooting of an unarmed Kansas man.
The three people charged — Neal Patel, 23, of Des Plaines, Illinois; Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida; and Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri — are not accused in the "swatting" call allegedly made by another man that preceded the police shooting of Andrew Finch, a 28, in Wichita on Dec. 28, 2017.
But they are accused of asking the suspect in the fatal Kansas case, Tyler Barriss, through Twitter direct messages to make false reports of bombs or threats of shootings that would trigger a law enforcement response and the evacuation of buildings against other targets, including a high school and a Dallas video game tournament. In some cases Barriss was paid or had things bought for him in return, prosecutors allege.
Barriss, 26, was arrested and charged with making a hoax call, allegedly at the behest of two gamers, that resulted in police fatally shooting Finch, who was not involved in the video game dispute.
Barriss pleaded guilty to 51 charges on Nov. 13 and under a plea agreement has agreed to serve a sentence of between 20 and 25 years in federal prison, prosecutors said. His sentencing is scheduled for March 1.
Patel and Stewart were arrested by the FBI Wednesday morning in Illinois and Florida, and Patten has agreed to surrender to federal authorities in Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Online court records do not show if the two of the people whose charges were announced Wednesday have attorneys. An attorney said to represent Patten said in an email that they had no comment at this time.
All three are charged with conspiracy and conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive device. Patel is also charged with bank fraud.
"Swatting," is popular among a subset of tech enthusiasts who often use caller ID spoofing and social engineering techniques to send SWAT teams and other emergency crews rushing to the home of a perceived enemy.
Patel allegedly conspired with Barriss to make false reports to police in Milford, Connecticut, in December of 2017, and to make a false bomb threat targeting a video game convention in Dallas, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.
Stewart is accused of conspiring with Barriss to make two false bomb threats about a high school in Gurnee, Illinois, in early December of 2017, and Patten is charged with hiring Barriss to "swat" people in Indiana and Ohio, also in December of 2017, and of scheming with Barriss to "swat" a high school in Missouri, according to prosecutors.
In Patten's case, prosecutors allege that in one instance another unindicted person made the request to Barriss, and that Patten told Barriss over Twitter direct messages that he paid for the person to be swatted, and that the other person was the "middle man," according to the indictment. Barriss allegedly called Missouri police saying that bombs had been planted at a high school after a student there asked Patten over text messages "can you swat the school [?]," the indictment says.
Barriss has a history of making such threats and was sentenced in 2016 for making false bomb reports involving two Los Angeles-area television stations, authorities have said.
The officer who fatally shot Finch was not charged. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in April that the officer believed the 911 call was real.
He said then that based on that call, responding officers “believed Mr. Finch was the suspect who had shot his own father and had been holding his younger brother and mother hostage.” The officer believed Finch was reaching for a gun when he fired, Bennett said.
The two gamers involved in the dispute which led to Finch's shooting have been criminally charged.