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Wichita on track in 2013 to see one of lowest homicide totals in decade

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, at 11:17 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, April 30, 2014, at 10:21 a.m.

When Mario Lewis was shot to death at a house party at 1452 N. Holyoke in mid-November of 2006, it marked the 40th homicide of that year in Wichita.

When Paul Danny Khmabounheuang was killed during an attempted robbery at the same house on Nov. 13, he was the 15th homicide of the year.

With a little less than a month left, 2013 is on track to see one of the lowest homicide totals of the past decade. The tally for this year is 16, and only 2005 – with 15 – has had fewer.

Wichita police officials are reluctant to discuss the low number of homicides, fearing that may somehow jinx them.

“Remember, we were sitting at 17 last year until November 22,” Capt. Brent Allred wrote in an e-mail response to questions. “Then we had 11 more through the end of the year.”

No year in the past decade had more homicides than 2007, which totaled 43. Two more years – 2004 and 2008 – topped 30. But even those years are low compared to the violent years of the early 1990s, which saw homicide numbers spike with the surge of gang activity in Wichita.

There were 57 homicides in 1993, 47 in 1994 and 45 in 1995.

Homicide numbers dropped back into the 20s and 30s most years after that as authorities came to grips with the impact gangs were having on the city.

“Since the ’90s, we have worked hard on gang intervention, being proactive and working with the community on identifying gang issues,” Allred said. “However, homicides are so unpredictable on location and time.”

Getting information from people in the community that helps solve crimes quickly “and put the person responsible behind bars” can limit retaliations, Allred said. That is as true today as it was 15 years ago, police officials say.

The spike in 2007 to 43 homicides was driven by a surge in robberies that became homicides at drug houses, Allred said.

In response, he said, “we put an emphasis on neighborhood drug complaints.”

The number of homicides immediately began to fall – to 35 in 2008, 26 in 2009 and 18 in 2010.

Of the 16 homicides in 2013, four remain unsolved:

• July 14 – James Gary at a warehouse party in the 800 block of East 11th

• July 24 – Lemmie Alford at the intersection of 15th and Green

• Sept. 22 – Kolby Hopkins in Old Town

• Oct. 29 – Damon Williams in the 4400 block of East Harry

Anyone with information related to any of those unsolved cases is encouraged to call the homicide section at 316-268-4181 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111.

Three people have been arrested and charged in connection with Khmabounheuang‘s death. Police are still looking for a fourth suspect in that case.

The killing of Lewis at the same house in 2007 remains unsolved, police say.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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