Three men who were shot by Wichita police last year while fleeing the scene of a robbery were fired upon after pointing guns at two officers who were trying to arrest them, a prosecutor told a Sedgwick County jury Tuesday.
A defense lawyer, however, said the officers fired on the men without provocation, leaving one of them dead and two others seriously wounded.
“Without warning they were gunned down,” defense lawyer Mark Sevart said. “There is no warning. Just bam bam bam bam.”
The conflicting accounts of the shooting came during opening statements of the trial of Reginald Vaughn, who is facing 11 felony charges in connection with a home-invasion robbery in the 1200 block of West Crawford on April 13, 2012. Police said one of the robbers, Timothy Collins, 17, died after being shot by police.
Vaughn, 21, is charged with aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and one count of kidnapping for each of the seven people who were in the house at the time of the hold-up.
In her opening statement, prosecutor Chelsea Anderson said the four robbers – two armed with guns and two with knives – forced their way into the home near Pawnee and Seneca about 4 a.m. She said one of the victims was allowed to go downstairs during the robbery to check on a sleeping 2-year-old child and called 911 while she was down there.
Anderson said the first robber to notice the police shouted to his friends, “The cops are here; we gotta go.” She said three of the robbers scrambled out the back door where two officers were waiting.
One of the officers was in the next-door neighbor’s backyard with a shotgun.
“He yells, ‘Police! Stop!’ and he sees one of the men raise up his arm and point his gun at him,” Anderson said. “He fears that he’s going to get shot so he fires his duty shotgun.”
Anderson said the other officer was standing by a shed in the backyard and fired a handgun. All three robbers fell to the ground, Anderson said. Vaughn, who was struck in the right armpit by the shotgun blast, later said at the hospital, “The guy who shot me shot me right because it made me drop the gun.”
An autopsy showed that Collins died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Anderson said two of the three men were holding guns when they were shot.
“There were two guns found at the scene: a .22-caliber revolver with live rounds, and a 9mm handgun with live rounds and one in the chamber,” she said.
Sevart told the jury that his client went to the house with some friends to get some marijuana. He said a dispute arose between his friends and the occupants of the house. He said Vaughn and two of his friends ran out the back door when they heard that police had arrived.
Sevart also told the jury that they would see a video that will show Vaughn and his friends were shot before the officers identified themselves as police.
“There was no warning, the video will show,” Sevart said. “There were simply shots fired by law enforcement officers at these kids.”
Sevart did not mention the source of the video.
The state’s first witness, John Ringer, said he was visiting his girlfriend at the time of the robbery. He said he just got off work from his job at Doc Howard’s and was smoking a cigarette on the front porch with friends when the four robbers approached on foot. Ringer said he was ordered to the ground at gunpoint, then forced to go inside. The robbers then started ransacking the house, looking for cash, drugs and electronic equipment.
Ringer said it wasn’t long before police were at the front door and the robbers were running out the back. He said it sounded to him like the police gave the fleeing robbers adequate warning before opening fire.
“I could hear them out the back door telling them repeatedly to get on the ground,” Ringer said. “‘Wichita police! Get on the ground! Everybody on the ground!’ Then we heard some gunshots.”
District Judge Warren Wilbert is presiding at the trial.