TV & Movies

Tyler Barriss From Web Of Make Believe Remains In Prison For His Swatting Tragedy

An internet hoax went terribly wrong.

by Kadin Burnett
Unknown person being held at gunpoint by a SWAT team in 'Web of Make Beleive'

Netflix dives into the deepest and seediest corners of the internet in its newly released docuseries, Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet. Each of the anthology series’ six episodes goes down a rabbit hole of depraved internet practices, ranging from white supremacist misinformation to IRS heists and swatting. While Web of Make Believe uses dramatized footage, it is undoubtedly rooted in real life, especially in its first episode, which chronicles the case of Tyler Barriss.

According to NBC News, Barriss received a 20-year prison sentence in December 2019 after being convicted for making a fake 911 call about a hostage situation in Kansas. What Barriss did is called “swatting,” the act of falsely reporting a serious crime to send a massive police presence to an unsuspecting target.

During his trial, Barriss admitted he swatted innocent people for years. His hoaxing habit finally went too far on December 28, 2017, when Barriss phoned police and falsely said he fatally shot his father and was currently holding the rest of his family hostage at his home in Wichita, Kansas. Officers descended upon the Wichita address, demanding everyone inside to come out. Andrew Finch, the 28-year-old occupant of the residence, exited his home confused, raising and dropping his hands several times before an officer opened fire and killed him.

A SWAT team raid as dramatized in the Netflix docuseries, Web of Make Believe.Netflix

Barriss, a resident of Los Angeles, California, pled guilty to a total of 51 charges, all having to do with hoax emergency calls he’d made, including the call that resulted in Finch’s murder.

Barriss admitted his fake phone call was in response to a heated game of Call of Duty: WWII. Authorities said two gamers, Shane Gaskill and Casey Viner, taunted Barriss over Twitter following the game. Gaskill challenged Barriss to “swat” him, giving Barriss a Wichita address where Gaskill used to live and Finch currently occupied.

Barriss was connected to false calls placed between 2015 and 2017, ranging across Ohio, Nevada, Illinois, Indiana, Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Missouri, Maine, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, Connecticut, and New York. When sentenced in 2019, Barriss received 150 months for the Kansas incident, followed by 90 more months for the calls placed from his California residence, ultimately totaling 20 years of prison time. He also received another five years of supervised release in Washington, D.C., for phoning in bomb threats to the FBI and Federal Communications Commission in 2017.

As for the other people involved in the deadly hoax, Viner received a 15-month prison sentence in 2019 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice. Gaskill made a deal for deferred prosecution in May 2019; the pretrial agreement potentially allows the charges to be dropped if Gaskill meets several conditions. The police officer who fired on Finch was not charged.