The swatting of Andrew Finch

It is usually unethical to call the police.

When you call the police, you’re asking heavily armed strangers to come and intervene in a situation they know nothing about. They might do so justly and to your satisfaction, or they might show up and shoot someone. Or their dog. Or their child. Or they might go to the wrong house and assault everyone there. When you call the police, you’re rolling the dice with other people’s lives, and there are very few situations where that’s better than the status quo but you’re safe enough to wait half an hour for the cops to show up.

“Someone I know online is in an argument about a penny-ante bet” is not one of those situations, but someone made the call anyway and an innocent man is dead.

Here’s how it happened:

Two fools made a $1.50 wager on the outcome of a video game. When the time came to settle up, they argued about it, and the argument somehow reached the point where Fool A threatened to sic cops on Fool B. That’s what swatting is — an attempt to give some cops an adrenaline overdose and then trick the panicky, hair-triggered cops into attacking someone.

Some people think this is funny and relatively harmless. Those people are stupid assholes.

Fool A had the means. Specifically, he knew a guy who’d successfully swatted people. So of course Fool B responded by goading the swatter (because some people still mistake “come at me bro” bluster for manly courage) and giving him the wrong address (because he didn’t want to actually be swatted).

Except Fool B didn’t make up a nonexistent address or use an abandoned building or something. He used Andrew Finch’s address.

So heavily armed cops showed up, convinced that Finch was a murderer who had hostages and a gun and who’d turned his house into a potential firebomb.

Finch, meanwhile, clearly had no idea what was going on. He made some movement that a cop decided was vaguely threatening, and the cop shot him.

How to divide blame between the cop, the swatter, the guy who asked for the swatting, and the guy who gave the swatter Finch’s address has been the subject of some online debate… but there’s plenty of blame to go around.

P.S. “Maybe I should have stuck to bomb threats” is not an acceptable applogy for killing a man.


Originally posted January 3, 2018.

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