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Couple arrested in McDonald's shooting both felons; man accused of racial violence in 2010

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, at 12:02 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, at 7:04 a.m.

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The man Wichita police suspect of firing a shotgun at an occupied car at a McDonald’s drive-through Wednesday has a violent felony record and has associated with white supremacist gang members, according to court records.

In a 2010 case, a prosecutor said in a court document that Sean Costa, who is white, was accused of attacking African-American men at a bar, one of whom suffered a “substantial injury to the head.” The prosecutor said Costa “was associating with known white supremacist criminal street gang members.” A police report said two suspects along with several other white men made “derogatory racial comments” to a man and punched him and two other men. One of the three victims was hit over the head with a bottle and suffered a severe cut.

Costa was convicted of felony aggravated battery and two counts of misdemeanor battery and served time in prison before being discharged in October, Kansas Department of Corrections records show. Because of the crime at the bar, Costa, 24, is listed as a violent offender on a public registry kept by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

A woman who identified herself as Costa’s mother, Michelle Turley, said the circumstances involving the bar incident led authorities to label it a hate crime. “He is not a racist,” Turley said.

As for Wednesday’s shooting, she said she feels badly for the people in the car that was fired upon at close range.

No one was injured, but a 45-year-old woman driving the targeted car told The Eagle that the shotgun pellets hit the car door and just missed her.

The woman police suspect of being with Costa at the McDonald’s and throwing a tire iron at the same car that was shot at also has a felony record, for drug possession in 2009 and 2010, records show. The woman, Melissa Palacios, 27, also spent time in prison before being discharged, in September 2011.

Palacios was scheduled to be sentenced next week in Sedgwick County District Court on five felony convictions including trafficking in methamphetamine at the Sedgwick County Jail, fleeing and eluding, burglary and theft.

In a court document Palacios filled out this past July, she said she worked as a baby sitter for a relative.

On Thursday afternoon, Costa was being held in jail on a $150,000 bond, and Palacios was being held on bonds of more than $400,000, for several cases.

Police are expected to present their investigation of the drive-through incident to prosecutors Friday, who would decide which charges might be filed.

In Wednesday’s incident, police said they believe Palacios was driving a black Trailblazer that cut in front of another vehicle in the drive-through lane of the McDonald’s at Kellogg and Dugan at about 7:30 a.m.

The woman driving the car that was hit by the shotgun blast told The Eagle that a woman driving the Trailblazer got out and threw a tire iron at her car and that a man exited the Trailblazer and fired at the driver’s side of her car. Her brother was sitting next to her in the car. The woman said she and the other woman had exchanged words before the situation quickly escalated.

Police recovered the tire iron at the scene, police Lt. Doug Nolte said Thursday.

It’s still not clear why the one vehicle cut into the drive-through lane, Nolte said.

The two suspects left before officers arrived, Nolte said, but witnesses gave a description of the Trailblazer – including the vanity license plate – and a check of vehicle registration information led officers to 2440 W. Newell, near Central and Meridian.

Costa’s mother said he and Palacios were engaged and were living in the basement of the house on Newell.

An officer passing by Newell saw two people getting out of the Trailblazer, Nolte said, but by the time he had turned around to get better positioned, they had gone into the house. They ignored police commands to come outside, Nolte said, so the SWAT team was called out.

After police got a warrant to search the house, the SWAT team entered the house at about 2 p.m.. Officers took three people who were inside – including Costa and Palacios – into custody, Nolte said. The third person, who owns the Trailblazer, was questioned and released, Nolte said.

Court records show Costa has multiple criminal convictions stretching back to 2005, when he was a juvenile. His mother said he ran away at 16. She said he has four young sons.

In February and March 2012, authorities issued a warrant for him after he tested positive in drug tests while on probation and admitted to using meth, court records show. A document said he didn’t enter drug treatment as directed.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com. Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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