Authorities identify 12-year-old hit by Wichita police car

02/13/2012 5:00 AM

08/05/2014 6:01 PM

A 12-year-old Wichita girl living with her family in a South Broadway motel died Sunday after she ran in front of a Wichita police patrol car driven by an officer responding to a burglary in progress, police said Monday.

The Kansas Highway Patrol was called in to handle the investigation. The accident occurred just before 7 p.m. Sunday in the 1600 block of South Broadway, Deputy Chief Nelson Mosley said.

Police identified the girl Monday afternoon as Suhani Bhakta, a seventh-grader at Mayberry Middle School.

Mosley said the patrol car was in the far right of two northbound lanes on South Broadway, and was trailing just behind an SUV also northbound in the left lane. The girl and her cousin, 14, ran into the street. Witnesses said the 14-year-old stopped on the street dividing line, and called out to her cousin to stop also; but the girl darted in front of the SUV in the lane nearest her, then across the far lane into the path of the patrol car, Mosley said.

Officers tried to revive her in the minutes before an ambulance arrived. She was taken to Via Christi on St. Francis, where she died later, Mosley said.

Mosley would not say how fast investigators think the patrol car was going as it responded to the burglary call; that’s part of the investigation, Mosley said. Department policy is that the officer would obey speed limits and drive without lights and sirens in responding to a burglary in progress, and the officer was driving with lights and sirens off, he said..

Investigators are looking into whether the officer’s view was obstructed by the SUV it was trailing, said Lt. Joe Schroeder, a police spokesman. Investigators have interviewed four witnesses, including two occupants of the SUV, and others, Mosley said.

The girls were crossing from the Frontier Motel to the Dillons store on the other side of the street, Mosley said.

The department sent its Critical Incident Team to talk to the officer involved in the accident and other officers who responded and tried to help the girl, Mosley said. The team tries to help officers who confront scenes of trauma at accidents and officer-involved shootings.

Other officers, responding to the burglary in progress at Tracy’s Automotive, 601 E. First St., confronted a 46-year-old man at the scene and arrested him after a struggle. He is in jail on suspicion of possession of narcotics, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest and other charges, Schroeder said.

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