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Hit-and-run tipster likely won’t get Crime Stoppers reward

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, at 10:11 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 3, 2014, at 6:54 a.m.

Dwight Bradford was awakened by a crunching sound about 4 a.m. on a Saturday last summer. He looked outside and saw a group of people trying to maneuver a car into a garage outside the house he was renting on North Coolidge.

“They had it on the back of a little U-Haul truck and had it covered with a tarp or something,” he said.

Bradford had seen on the news that Wichita police were looking for a silver Mercury Grand Marquis that had been involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident July 5 on 21st Street. After the group with the U-Haul left, he said, he went out to the garage and looked under the tarp. It was a silver Mercury Grand Marquis with a smashed windshield and front-end damage. He said he called Crime Stoppers later that morning.

“I immediately knew that was the car they were looking for,” he said.

Bradford, who is 44 and unemployed, said he was happy to hear that Crime Stoppers had authorized the payment of a $1,000 reward for the tip that solved the case.

But now, he said, it looks like he won’t get a dime.

Bradford said he was told at first that he’d been disqualified from receiving any reward money because his identity was known to police. After Crime Stoppers officials decided to forgive that discretion, he said, he was told he would still need to produce his Crime Stoppers secret tip number to claim the reward. He said he threw that number away long before the issue came up.

He said Crime Stoppers executive director Gordon Bassham has known for months that he was the one who phoned in the tip that solved the case.

“He’s using this little rule of etiquette to deny me that money,” Bradford said. “I just think it’s kind of shady.”

Bassham said there is a protocol that Crime Stoppers must follow. He said tipsters who don’t follow the rules can be disqualified from receiving reward money. He said a caller whose tip led to the arrest of three suspects in the recent theft of a purse and wedding ring of a dying woman in a Taco Bell drive-through lane forfeited her chance for a reward because she identified herself to police.

“Immediately after the tip, she went to the Police Department and identified herself as a Crime Stoppers tipster,” he said.

Bassham said tipsters must remain anonymous.

“The way that Crime Stoppers works is that if a person wants to claim a reward, they have to maintain their anonymity,” he said. “Were a person not to maintain their anonymity, they could possibly be called as a witness. Crime Stoppers cannot be put in a position of providing cash for what amounts to testimony in a court of law. It would appear that Crime Stoppers is buying testimony, and we can’t do that.”

Bassham said that in Bradford’s case, the Crime Stoppers rewards committee agreed to waive the anonymity requirement. But he said Bradford was then unable to produce the secret number.

“In order for a person to claim a reward, they have to be able to produce a secret tip number,” Bassham said. “Mr. Bradford cannot do that.

“It’s the only way to know if (it’s the) person who phones in the tip. For all we know, Mr. Bradford could be claiming to be the tipster and he’s not.”

Bassham said he’s been told there have been other cases where tipsters have lost reward money because they lost their secret tip numbers. He said it hasn’t happened since he became director in 2010.

Bradford said Bassham knows as well as police that he’s the one whose tip led to the recovery of the Grand Marquis and the arrest of four suspects in the case.

“It’s like an open secret,” he said. “He knows that I’m the guy; we’ve discussed this. Gordon knows that I am who I say I am.”

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @hlaviana.

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