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DA's office: Wichita cop shot woman legally, acted appropriately under circumstances

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, at 6:12 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013, at 11:37 a.m.

The police officer who shot a 53-year-old grandmother during a confrontation with another woman in west Wichita last January committed no crimes and responded appropriately in the unfolding circumstances of the incident, authorities say.

Shirley Smith was shot once at close range and seriously wounded during the dispute in the 500 block of North Summitlawn, just southeast of Central and Ridge, on the night of Jan. 13.

Officers investigating a report of shots fired in the area were present when Smith and a 34-year-old woman who lived nearby got into a fight, police have said. The fight was the culmination of a dispute between the two women that had been ongoing for months.

Police say four officers were trying to restrain the women when Smith pulled out a lock-blade knife and cut the other woman’s blouse and undergarments. One of the officers was between the two women when Smith went after the younger woman again, police say, and that’s when the officer shot Smith once.

“The officer actually saw her swing it,” Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said of the knife. “We have cut clothing on the victim.

“There seems to be clear and convincing evidence that we have a dangerous situation at hand and the officer takes legal and appropriate action to stop the threat.”

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation was called in to conduct an independent investigation.

Smith was hit in the abdomen by the bullet. She was hospitalized for more than five weeks and underwent multiple operations.

She was initially charged with aggravated battery with a weapon, court records show, and later pleaded guilty to three counts of battery and one count of criminal use of a weapon – all misdemeanors. She was sentenced to one year in jail, but that sentence was suspended and she was placed on one year of probation.

In reviewing the facts of the case, “we determined the officer did not act criminally” Chief Deputy District Attorney Kim Parker said.

The officer who shot Smith has been on the force for seven years.

There have been five people killed and nine injured in eight armed confrontations with police in the past 11 months. No officers have been injured.

The surge in officer-involved shootings has prompted protests and rallies by residents who are convinced local police are being too aggressive.

An administrative review of the Smith case is under way, Stolz said.

“We look at it because we want to make sure all of our policies and practices are adhered to,” Stolz said.

A preliminary review indicates proper policies and practices were followed by the officer who shot Smith, he said.

The review also takes into account any factors that impact training, Stolz said.

“There are still training issues that can be gleaned,” he said. “We may actually change our training regimen based on things we learn from real-life situations.”

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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