An Illinois resident pleaded guilty Monday to helping a Los Angeles man make fake bomb threats and shooting reports to police, a high school and a convention center in six states.
Neal Patel, 23, pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Los Angeles to conspiring with Tyler R. Barriss to make hoax reports to locations in Connecticut, Texas, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 19.
Barriss was sentenced in March in Wichita, Kansas, to 20 years behind bars for making a hoax emergency call to law enforcement in which an innocent Kansas man was shot and killed by police. He pleaded guilty to dozens of charges brought by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, Kansas and Washington, D.C., related to fake calls and threats, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the Wichita case, Barriss admitted making fake emergency calls on Dec. 28, 2017, that led police to surround a house, believing there was a man inside who had killed his own father and was holding other family members hostage. The man who came outside to face police — Andrew Finch, 28 — had done nothing wrong and did not know about the call. As he stepped onto the porch, police told him to put up his hands. When he unexpectedly dropped his hands, he was shot and killed.
The phony call that led to Finch’s death drew national attention as the first documented fatal case of swatting, a hoax designed to provoke a law enforcement response to a nonexistent threat.
Barriss’ fake call stemmed from a dispute over a $1.50 bet on an online game of “Call of Duty.” Finch had nothing to do with the game, but police were given his address because it was the former home of one of the gamers, according to the DOJ.
In January, Patel and two others — Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, and Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri — were charged in Los Angeles with conspiring with Barriss to make hoax reports.
Stewart and Patten face trial separately in April, according to court records.