A Devastating Revenge

The death of Andrew Finch after a 911 hoax gone terribly wrong leaves questions about the influence of video games.

Police officers surrounded the home of Andrew Finch and fatally shot him during a 911 hoax.

Wikimedia Commons

Police officers surrounded the home of Andrew Finch and fatally shot him during a 911 hoax.

Andrea Castaneda, Staff Writer

Casey Viner, a 19-year-old from North College Hill, Ohio, was involved in a 911 hoax that killed Wichita, Kans. resident Andrew Finch, a father of two. Viner recently plead guilty for his involvement and was sentenced to 15 months in prison last September.

Two years ago, on Dec. 28, 2017, Viner lost a $1.50 bet while playing “Call of Duty: WWII” because a teammate, Shane Gaskill, killed him during the game, according to ABC 7 News- WJLA. The virtual kill led to an argument filled with threats and taunts between these two gamers. During this argument, Gaskill gave Viner his old address while taunting him to “try something.” Viner later contacted Tyler Barriss, an online gaming friend, who was known to brag about “swatting” attacks.

Bariss contacted dispatchers and stated to be a resident living at Gaskill’s old home, and Andrew Finch’s current residence, dispatchers reported. Barriss told the emergency responders he shot his father in the head while holding his mother and brother hostage. Barriss warned 911 that he wished to kill himself. Police swarmed the home immediately. Finch, totally unaware of the hoax, went outside to see what was going on, and police shot him. Finch died at the hospital according to news magazine “USA Today.”

Officials intentionally charged Gaskill as a co-conspirator, but struck a deal with prosecutors for “deferred prosecution” that dropped charges against him. Barriss was sentenced for 20 years, as he was guilty of 51 cases of fraudulent emergency calls and threats. Viner plead guilty on counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He was banned from gaming for two years, must pay $2,500 in restitution, serve two years probation, and six months in confinement in his house unless for school, work, and church.

While this event may seem totally extreme, Mr. Jeffery Baird, a psychology teacher in Round Lake High School, said that video games can truly have a gripping effect on people, and it’s not surprising that the argument could have escalated to such a terrible levels. “Violent video games fuel attitude,” Baird said. “People who play pro-social games exhibit pro-social behavior, while those who play violent video games exhibit violent behavior. It is almost like monkey see monkey do.”

According to a meta-analysis Dartmouth College published in the scientific journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science,” violent video games increase violence within gamers. The analysis looked at 24 studies with over 17,000 participants from ages 9-19 years old, and showed an increase in physical aggression with time. 

“All video games are role play, so when we play them the behavior we put our minds in are the ones we execute,” Baird said. “There are no true signs of an unstable person, but their environment and mentality influence their actions.”

An example of how powerful role playing can be is a 1971 social psychology experiment. Known as the Stanford Prison Experiment, it investigated the psychological effects of power being established between prison officers and prisoners. During the six days of the experiment, each participant had been fully absorbed into the role they had to play and acted upon it guards either being violent, or cruel while prisoners were submissive. 

Video games can be a contributing factor to an individual’s mind as well as their environment and mentally. A combination of these factors in a negative view can lead to the tragic fate of Andrew Finch all over a game of “Call of Duty” he had no part in.