Wichita officer won't be charged in shooting death of Andrew Finch

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Andrew Finch Andrew Finch

The Sedgwick County district attorney says charges will not be filed against the police officer who shot and killed a man after a prank 911 call. 

Andrew Finch was shot December 28 by an officer responding to a California man's call with a fake story about a shooting and kidnapping at Finch's Wichita home. 

District Attorney Marc Bennett announced the decision Thursday, saying there was reasonable concern at the time Andrew Finch may have been armed with a weapon.

“The family is devastated and disappointed by the District Attorney’s decision. Andy Finch was unjustifiably and unconstitutionally executed in the sanctity of his own home,” said Andrew Stroth, attorney for Finch's family.

Bennett said Wichita officers and Sedgwick County deputies responded to the call at 1033 West McCormick. The person who called 911 said he shot his father in the head and was holding his mother and little brother at gunpoint in a closet in the house. 

The officer involved was placed across the street to provide cover for other officers. 

"Without being directly contacted by law enforcement, Mr. Finch stepped out into the threshold of the front door of his residence. In response, officers to the east and to the north gave immediate verbal warnings and commands. Mr. Finch initially complied, raising his hands to roughly shoulder level. Depended upon their different vantage points ... officers described seeing Mr. Finch lower his hands, reach for his waistband. One officer believed he was reaching for his waistband to raise his pants up. Reach behind his body."

Bennett said Finch did raise his hands and appeared to turn his body, at which time his right arm was not visible, and then his right arm appeared to come up directly in front of his body. 

"The officer believed Mr. Finch was the suspect who had shot his own father and had been holding his younger brother and mother hostage," Bennett said. "This officer perceived these movements by Mr. Finch and believed the subject that he was looking at, Mr. Finch, was reaching for the gun that he would have used to shoot his father moments earlier. The officer believed he saw a gun come up in Mr. Finch's hands. The officer stated that he discharged his weapon, thinking that Mr. Finch presented an imminent risk to the officers directly to the east." 

The bullet hit a storm door and fragments ricocheted and his Finch in the chest. 

"This shooting should not have happened," Bennett said. "But this officer's decision was made in the context of the false call. To charge 'officer number one' would require evidence, not 20/20 hindsight."

The shooting drew national attention to a practice called "swatting," in which a person makes up a false report to get responders to descend on an address.

The man accused of making the hoax emergency call, Tyler Barriss, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, giving false alarm and interference with law enforcement.

Swatting suspect tweets from jail

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer on Thursday signed into law a bill that increases penalties for “swatting” or other false alarms if a third party is injured as a result of the hoax. 

“We need to send a clear message that this behavior is unacceptable in our society,” said Colyer. “It isn’t a prank, it isn’t a joke, it is a deadly serious crime and this law makes it clear that we will treat it as such. What happened to Mr. Finch was unspeakably tragic, and we hope that this law will prevent any other innocent people from losing their lives as a result of this horrific behavior.”

“I am very pleased to think this legislation could possibly save lives,” said Lisa Finch, mother of Andrew.

The Wichita Police Department issued the following statement:

A Wichita Police Department (WPD) officer involved in the fatal shooting of Andrew Finch on Dec. 28 was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing today by District Attorney Marc Bennett. Bennett earlier today released a statement explaining in detail the results of the investigation.

This incident has weighed on the hearts of the WPD and community. Chief Gordon Ramsay and the WPD continue to extend sympathy to the Finch family and the officers involved.

Following are next steps regarding the incident:

1. An internal investigation will be conducted to determine if policies and training were followed.
2. Review of training and policies to include any recommendations.
3. Administrative review of the findings and internal actions taken based on the findings.
4. Citizens Review Board (CRB) reviews the findings and provides policy and training recommendations.
5. Administrative review of CRB recommendations.

Chief Ramsay and WPD remain committed to completing an objective evaluation of this incident based upon the facts.

WPD officials work to stay abreast of developments in police policies and practices and strive to provide effective law enforcement to the community. WPD has implemented the deployment of body cameras to assist in documenting police actions, continues to explore and deploy nonlethal alternatives to lethal force and to adhere to other developments in law enforcement practices. The WPD recognizes the concern this tragedy has caused and is committed to do everything it can to prevent an incident like this from occurring again.

Because of ongoing civil litigation, there will be no further comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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