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Frustrated Wichitans who lost homes, belongings in apartment standoff wait for help

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 26, 2013, at 11:52 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, at 11:09 a.m.

A couch. A television. A few chairs.

Casanova Cruz and his father, Don, are piecing their lives back together “little by little.” But it’s taking time and money that the men say neither they – nor the others sitting at a table in a south Wichita Applebee’s on Friday night – have.

“I still don’t have no clothes,” Casanova Cruz said. He gestured to his T-shirt and jeans, which family members bought for him. The others nodded.

“I don’t have the money to shop,” said Alyssa Cooper as she cuddled her sleepy infant son, the younger of her two children.

Her fiance, Derrick Jochum, frowned as he flipped through photos of his son. A recliner, dining room furniture and a glass-top coffee table were in the background.

“We lost years of stuff,” he said. “We had a nice set-up.”

More than two weeks after a nearly two-day police standoff displaced residents of Southlake Village Apartments, three families from building No. 8 – where the incident took place – remain frustrated. No one has stepped up to pay for new possessions or the cost to relocate them to new apartments, they say.

And it’s unclear when – or whether – help will arrive.

“We were all doing really good” before the standoff, Casanova Cruz said. “And now we’re just crying to get back up. … We are hurting.”

The families’ apartments sustained damage during a 32-hour standoff between police and 24-year-old Jared Woosypiti, who was killed during the ordeal. Officers fired tear gas and dumped water into the apartments to try to drive out Woosypiti, holed up there after fleeing a shooting at a south Wichita Kmart; then, the officers resorted to controlled blasts.

In six apartments, including those occupied by Cruz and Cooper, little was salvageable.

Residents of the three apartments say they’ve submitted damage claims to the city. Wichita police officials asked the group to write a list of their losses and estimate their replacement value.

Gloria Kerr, a disabled veteran, figured the value of her belongings. Then, she said, she claimed only half.

She said she remains homeless and is thinking about moving to Oklahoma to live with her daughter.

“It’s ultra-conservative,” Kerr said of her claim, which she submitted Friday. She requested the dollar amount not be shared until the city has an opportunity to review her claim.

“I want the city to do the right thing,” she said. “All I want is to recoup the money I paid out of pocket and to move on with my life.”

Casanova Cruz said he submitted a claim for about $10,000 on July 15, just days before he and his father signed a yearlong lease at a different apartment complex. He said his list – a page and a half long – includes antiques, TVs, clothes and a 1930s Superman comic book.

Keepsakes, like his late mother’s stuffed bear collection, can’t be replaced, though. Nor can the Mexican flags and other family heirlooms that traveled to the United States with his relatives five generations ago.

“We’re just glad that other family had some of the items, too,” said Don Cruz, who declined to disclose the amount of his claim but called it conservative.

“Those things can’t be replaced.”

The residents say they continue to await word from the city about whether their claims will be paid. No time frame has been given to the families, Don Cruz said.

Calls to the city of Wichita’s law department and city manager seeking comment on the city’s plans to reimburse Southlake Village residents affected by the standoff went unreturned Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the city later called The Eagle and said no one would be available to answer questions until Monday.

Meanwhile, the residents say they plan to consult with an attorney in the coming week and bring their pleas for help to the Wichita City Council.

“This is not a procedural deal,” Don Cruz said of paying the claims. “We need the help now.”

A fund has been established to help the displaced residents of Southlake Village. Contributions to “Alyssa Cooper’s Building 8 Fund” may be made at Cessna Credit Union locations.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @amyreneeleiker.

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