Wichita police chief: Robber came at officer with knife before being shot

10/31/2011 12:00 AM

11/01/2011 6:17 AM

Witnesses say a Wichita police officer had no choice but to open fire on a robbery suspect who came at him with a knife inside the Dollar General at Pawnee and Meridian late Sunday night, Chief Norman Williams said Monday.

DeJuan Colbert, 27, ignored several commands to drop the knife he had raised above his head, Williams said, and then came at the officer just inside the front door of the store just before 10 p.m.

The three officers who had responded to the robbery alarm at the store all opened fire, hitting Colbert several times.

He was taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, where he was pronounced dead at 10:56 p.m., according to a police report.

It is the first fatal officer-involved shooting of the year, Williams said.

Colbert was one of three men who came into the store at 9:56 p.m. with bandannas covering their faces, he said. All three had knives.

While Colbert stayed at the front of the store, demanding money from the safe, the other two men went to the back of the store. One of them threatened an employee with his knife.

The three officers arrived at the store at 9:59 p.m., Williams said. Two approached the store from the east, the third from the west.

The third officer was able to see inside the store from the west and noticed a man at the front of the store, Williams said. He alerted the other officers, then entered the store and confronted Colbert.

After ignoring the commands to drop the knife, Williams said, Colbert came at the officer — closing to within a foot or two when he was shot.

Witnesses said "the officer had no other option" but to open fire, Williams said.

The entire incident, from initial confrontation to shots being fired, was over in "several seconds," a police source said.

The other two men, ages 17 and 30, surrendered inside the store without incident. Williams said evidence suggests the same men may have robbed the same store on Sept. 25, and investigators are checking to see whether they have committed other recent robberies as well.

Court records show Colbert pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and aggravated assault for an incident in 2007. Using a stick as a weapon, he confronted a Papa John's delivery man in the 5100 block of East Funston on the night of July 31 and demanded the pizza he was carrying.

The delivery man threw the pizza at Colbert and fled. Colbert was sentenced to probation.

The officer who fired first in the Dollar General incident has three years of experience with the department, Williams said, and the others have as much as 13 years of experience.

All three have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Police are looking for a fourth suspect in connection with the attempted robbery, Lt. Ken Landwehr said.

He is believed to have been driving a light blue four-door sedan that was parked behind the store. The sedan left prior to the officers' arrival.

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