CALGARY – The Calgary Police Service has charged a Los Angeles man in a hoax last month that caused tactical teams to descend on an apartment building for a report of a shooting and hostage taking that turned out to be bogus.
Acting Duty Insp. Peter Siegenthaler said there’s a good indication that the accused — Tyler Raj Barriss — is the same man charged in a similar incident six days later that led police in Wichita, Kan., to fatally shoot an unarmed man.
Calgary police have charged Barriss, 25, with public mischief for falsely reporting an offence, fraud for providing false information by letter or telecommunication and mischief.
A man with the same name, age and city of residence has been charged in Kansas with making a false alarm. He waived his right to an extradition hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court last week.
In both the Calgary and Wichita cases, police say a man called 911 purporting that he’d shot his father and that he was holding his mother and a sibling at gunpoint. When someone makes a phoney emergency call aimed at sending tactical officers to a certain location, it’s known as swatting.
Siegenthaler said swatting calls can put the public and officers at risk and tie up police resources.
He said it’s frustrating.
“We have to take these calls seriously and we have to take them at face value based on the information that we receive.”
Siegenthaler said a man called 911 on Dec. 22 claiming he had shot his father and was holding his mom and younger brother hostage. He gave an address.
“This call concerned us because it was very specific and it sounded very real,” said Siegenthaler.
Patrol and tactical officers were on the scene quickly and they began evacuating nearby apartment units. While police were trying to confirm what happened, another 911 call came from a woman at the same address.
The woman told police she believed she was the victim of a swatting call, based on something a person told her online. Siegenthaler said she had contact with Barriss earlier in the day, but did not elaborate on their relationship.
Police said they believe the woman was targeted because of her “online persona.” But Siegenthaler said victims are often random and pranksters have even been known to target movie stars.
He said it’s not difficult for someone to figure out how to make a 911 call to a different city.
Siegenthaler said it’s unlikely that Barriss will be extradited to Canada, but that he would be arrested if he entered the country.
He said Barriss wasn’t on the Calgary Police Service’s radar until after the death of 28-year-old Andrew Finch in Wichita on Dec. 28.
Someone made a similar shooting-and-hostage-taking report at Finch’s address and officers surrounded the home.
Finch was fatally shot by police after he answered the door.