What is ‘swatting’? The vindictive prank that just led to a tragic death.

On Thursday night, the 29th of December, a Kansas man named Andrew Finch was sitting inside his home with family.

It was freezing cold.

Four days after Christmas, perhaps the family were spending an extended holiday together. Maybe they were making plans for New Year’s Eve, while still picking at leftovers.

Something else was going on more than 1600 kilometres away. Something that had absolutely nothing to do with Finch, which he would never know anything about.

Finch heard something outside late at night, and opened the front door to see if somebody was there.

That would be the last thing he ever did.

The 28-year-old was shot dead by a police officer, who had been informed that the man inside this residence – in Wichita Kansas – was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage.

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When Finch looked outside, he had not been armed. He had not yelled at or threatened anyone.

The man who had been spending the holidays with his nieces and mother fell into the cold, December night and bled to death.

Andrew Finch (left). Tyler Barriss (right). Image via Facebook.

In Los Angeles, on the same night, a man named Tyler Barriss called 911.

It is believed he had been playing Call of Duty, and 12 members of the gamer community have reported that an argument began between two men regarding a $2 bet.

Barriss concocted an elaborate story about a hostage crisis in a Kansas home, sending police to an address he believed belonged to the online nemesis.

This wasn't the first time Barriss had purposely misled authorities. In 2015, it is alleged that the 25-year-old phoned in a false bomb-threat at a local television station.

But this 'prank' - to call police about a fictional incident in another state - was significantly more dangerous.

The practice is known in the online gaming world as 'swatting'. It involves sending a SWAT team (Specials Weapons and Tactics) to the home of another person under false pretences.

Image Getty.

He told 911 that he was the assailant, and provided a fake address. "We were arguing and I shot him in the head and he's not breathing anymore," he told emergency services. Barriss said he was armed, and threatened to set the house on fire.

So when police turned up to Finch's property, that's the man they expected to encounter.

Less than 24 hours after Finch's death, the LAPD arrested Barriss inside the rehab facility where he was living.

The police are currently investigating the misinformation from the original 911 call, and attempting to determine why an innocent man was mercilessly shot.

This week, it was announced that 'Call of Duty' was one of the top two selling video games of 2017.

But as we saw on December 29th, the game extends far beyond the virtual.

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