JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker is pushing for tougher penalties after a death in Kansas that resulted from a prank call to police.
Republican Rep. Bill Kidd, of Independence, filed legislation to hold pranksters civilly and criminally liable if they make a call resulting in an emergency response, KRCG-TV reported.
The push comes amid the rise of “swatting,” a prank in which someone calls the police to report an emergency that requires officers to send a SWAT team. The prank turned deadly Dec. 28 when police fatally shot Andrew Finch, 28, at his home in Kansas after receiving a hoax call about a shooting and kidnapping. The alleged caller, Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, faces manslaughter charges in the death.
“This is not a joke. People have died,” Kidd said. “We want people to understand that if you do this, you’re going to suffer consequences.”
The lawmaker said Finch’s death prompted him to file the bill. Currently, filing a false report is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, but Kidd said that doesn’t consider any injuries that could occur. There is no state law dealing with swatting, said John Wheeler, sheriff of Cole County.
Under his proposal, causing a false emergency response that leads to serious injury would be punishable by up to four years in prison, and a swatting prank resulting in death would result in up to seven years in prison. The bill would also make the caller responsible for any damage resulting from the response, such as a SWAT team breaking down a door.
The bill hasn’t yet been assigned to a committee, but Kidd said he discussed it with Speaker Pro Tem Elijah Haahr and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo.