The Jury Talks Back

12/29/2017

Awful: SWATting Finally Kills Someone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 2:30 pm

SWATting is a dangerous hoax in which someone calls the police and falsely reports that a shooting has happened at a particular address. When police show up at the address, the person who answers the door has no idea what is going on — and is suddenly facing police officers who think the homeowner is armed and dangerous. It’s been going on for years, and has always been a recipe for getting someone killed. And now, that has apparently happened:

Online gamers have said in multiple Twitter posts that the shooting of a man Thursday night by Wichita police was the result of a “swatting” hoax involving two gamers.

. . . .

Deputy Wichita Police Chief Troy Livingston said Thursday night that police were looking into whether the call that led to the shooting was a case of swatting.

Livingston said the department received a call that someone had an argument with their mother, that the father had been shot in the head and the shooter was holding his mother, brother and sister hostage.

“That was the information we were working off of,” he said.

Officers went to the 1000 block of McCormick, preparing for a hostage situation and they “got into position,” he said.

“A male came to the front door,” Livingston said. “As he came to the front door, one of our officers discharged his weapon.”

Livingston didn’t say if the man, who was 28, had a weapon when he came to the door, or what caused the officer to shoot the man. Police don’t think the man fired at officers, but the incident is still under investigation, he said. The man, who has not been identified by police, died at a local hospital.

I have been in that situation — although, thank God, I was not shot when it happened to me. On July 1, 2011, I was SWATted at my home in California, after receiving an email threat a week earlier. I fully described the incident in this post:

At 12:35 a.m. on July 1, 2011, sheriff’s deputies pounded on my front door and rang my doorbell. They shouted for me to open the door and come out with my hands up.

When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun.

They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE?

I told them: Yes, my wife and my children are in the house. They’re upstairs in their bedrooms, sleeping. Of course they’re alive.

Deputies led me down the street to a patrol car parked about 2-3 houses away. At least one neighbor was watching out of her window as I was placed, handcuffed, in the back of the patrol car. I saw numerous patrol cars on my quiet street. There was a police helicopter flying overhead, shining a spotlight down on us as I walked towards the patrol car. Several neighbors later told us the helicopter woke them up. I saw a fire engine and an ambulance. A neighbor later told me they had a HazMat vehicle out on the street as well.

Meanwhile, police rushed into my home. They woke up my wife, led her downstairs and to the front porch, frisked her, and asked her where the children were. Then police ordered her to stand on the front porch with her hands against the wall while they entered my children’s bedrooms to make sure they were alive.

The call that sent deputies to my home was a hoax. Someone had pretended to be me. They called the police to say I had shot my wife. The sheriff’s deputies who arrived at my front door believed they were about to confront an armed man who had just shot his wife. I don’t blame the police for any of their actions. But I blame the person who made the call.

Because I could have been killed.

I never described how slipshod the investigation was, but the FBI investigators clearly did not care about my case. They waited seven months to subpoena the phone records. They failed to subpoena records of other calls made by the SWATter until those records had been purged. Whenever I called them about the case, I got the distinct sense that I was regarded as a pain in the rear.

I got frustrated with them and finally told the agent in charge of the case that they needed to work harder on these cases. I said that SWATting was very dangerous. That one day, eventually, it would end up killing someone.

Now that has evidently happened.

I’ve been shouting about this issue for years, and have warned again and again of the danger.

I should feel vindicated.

Instead, I just feel sick to my stomach.

My heart goes out to the man’s family.

What an awful, terrible thing.

UPDATE: His name was Andrew Finch. He leaves behind two children, ages 7 and 2. His family says he was not armed.

Rest in peace.

UPDATE x2: Police have released the audio of the SWATting call:

The voice does not sound familiar, but the dead affect of the voice does. There is also body cam footage:

It’s very difficult to see what actions (if any) prompted the shooting.

What a tragedy.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

Outrageous: California Prosecuting Man for Anti-Muslim Insults

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 1:30 pm

Here in the United States of America, the California Attorney General is actually prosecuting a man for Internet insults. Eugene Volokh:

In September 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page (before he was finally blocked by the ICSC from commenting):

  • “THE TERROR HIKE … SOUNDS LIKE FUN” (written in response to the Center’s “Sunset Hike” announcement).
  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim s**t has no place in western civilization.” [Note by Patterico: I bleeped the expletive here, but Feigin’s original comment contained the curse word.]

California is now prosecuting him for posting these comments, on the theory that they violate Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

These are Facebook comments, not calls into a person’s home. All the organization had to do was block the guy. But they, and the Attorney General, want to punish him for what he said. And they are using the criminal justice system to do it.

As Volokh explains, the California Attorney General makes no bones about the fact that it is going after Feigin because of the content of his speech. It is the allegation that the language is intended to “vex” or “annoy” members of the ICSC that the Attorney General claims is unlawful. If Feigin had praised Muslims or Islam, there would be no prosecution. They admit this, openly.

Volokh notes that the logic of this prosecution would also support a prosecution for, say, comments on the NRA’s Web site intended to annoy NRA employees — or comments on President Trump’s Web site intended to annoy Trump. I’ll add that it could apply to comments on this very Web site intended to annoy me. But if you leave a comment intended to annoy the NRA, or Trump, or me, the remedy is for someone to respond to it, or in an extreme case to ban you from the site. It’s not to prosecute you.

One strongly suspects, given the partisan leftist bent of California’s Attorney General, that there would be no prosecution for comments intended to annoy the NRA or Trump. And it is the partisan nature of government retaliation for speech that is at the root of the First Amendment’s prohibition against such retaliation.

The actions of the California Attorney General in attempting to punish Feigin for his free speech are so outrageous as to shock the conscience of this prosecutor. (I should add, as I always do, that I speak for myself here and not for my office.) This is very basic First Amendment stuff. They should be ashamed of themselves.

P.S. I should note that there is a separate count for an actual alleged threat. But as Prof. Volokh explains, the evidence supporting that count is very weak:

(I should note that Feigin is also being charged with making a threatening phone call to the Islamic Center; but that is a separate count, based on separate conduct, and it’s far from clear that Feigin was actually the person who made that call, as this CNN story [Scott Glover] describes. The Center employee who received the call claimed that it sounded like Feigin’s voice, which he heard when making a call to test the theory that the caller was the same person who wrote the Facebook posts. But the employee also continues to claim that the call sounded like the voice of someone who had left a different message on the Center’s voice-mail the day before — and that person has been proved to be someone other than Feigin.

Nor do the police have any phone records linking the threatening call to Feigin: They waited seven months before trying to get the records, and by then Citrix, which operated the calling number as part of its GoToMeeting teleconferencing system, had purged its records. This is why this post focuses on the Facebook posts, which Feigin did make, and not on the separate threatening phone call charge.)

The bit about waiting months to get the records, only to see that they were purged, reminds me of the slipshod efforts of the FBI in “investigating” my SWATting. But the fact remains that this sounds like very bad evidence for the threat count.

In any event, prosecuting someone for annoying Internet insults that can easily be blocked is an outrage. I hope these prosecutors get hammered hard in court. They deserve to be.

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am friendly with Ken White of Popehat.com, who has done pro bono work for me in the past. His law partner is the man defending Feigin. This has no effect on my opinion but it should be noted regardless.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]


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