March 1, 2012

Woman shot by police plans to sue city of Wichita

A 53-year-old grandmother said she plans to sue the city of Wichita because a police officer shot her when she claims she was unarmed and not threatening anyone.

A 53-year-old grandmother said she plans to sue the city of Wichita because a police officer shot her when she claims she was unarmed and not threatening anyone.

“I’m planning on it big time,” Shirley Smith said Thursday. “The police department is lying.”

She said no charges have been filed against her.

“Why would they? I didn’t do anything,” Smith said.

Smith said she was in the hospital for about five weeks, underwent six surgeries to repair internal injuries and lost part of her liver.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is looking into the Jan. 13 incident, and police Lt. Doug Nolte said the Wichita Police Department can’t comment on Smith’s claims.

The incident in the 500 block of North Summitlawn, just southeast of Central and Ridge, began after a report of a drive-by shooting about 8 p.m. on a nearby street. That turned out to be a person firing three shots into the air, hitting nothing and no one, according to a police account given the next day.

Police were investigating that incident when Smith and a 34-year-old woman who lives nearby got into a fight. The fight was the culmination of a dispute between the two women that had been ongoing for months.

Smith and police disagree on what happened next.

Police say four officers were trying to restrain the women when Smith pulled out a lock-blade knife and cut the other woman’s blouse and undergarments. One of the officers was between the two women when Smith went after the younger woman again, police say, and that’s when the officer shot Smith once.

Smith said she was in the front yard when the nearby shots were fired. Four of her grandchildren, ages 2 to 7, were with her. “I made all the kids lie on the ground,” she said.

The next thing she knew, the 34-year-old woman pulled up in a car in front of her house and accused Smith of firing shots at her, Smith said. She added that the woman had been bullying her daughter, Tasha Smith, 25.

The two women began yelling at each other. The younger woman, her teenage son and daughter and mother got out of the car and approached Shirley Smith.

The 34-year-old took a swing at her but missed, Smith said. The two women began exchanging blows but had stopped by the time police arrived, she said.

Tasha and Shirley Smith both said they had their hands up when police intervened.

“I didn’t have anything in my hand,” Shirley said.

The only object in the area was Tasha’s cellphone, which was on the ground, Tasha and Shirley said.

But Shirley Smith said one of the officers shot her in the left side.

“I asked him, ‘What the … did you shoot me for?’ ” she said. “He said, ‘Because you were going after that lady.’ I wasn’t. I was standing back.

“Did he tase me? Did he mace me? No, he shot me with a 9 millimeter.

“They know I didn’t have a weapon. I think the reason he shot me was for crowd control.”

The Smiths and neighbors said 20 to 30 people were gathered around the incident.

Delia Lozano, a next-door neighbor, confirmed some of Smith’s story.

“People were yelling at her, talking about her daughter,” Lozano said. “She walked towards them, but she didn’t have a weapon in her hands. She didn’t have anything in her hands.”

As for the shooting, Lozano said, “There was no warning. No one yelled out. I heard a shot and saw her fall to the ground.”

The officer who fired the shot has been on the force for 6 ½ years, police said. In accordance with standard procedure, he was placed on administrative leave pending a review of the incident. Nolte said it was an administrative matter, and he couldn’t comment on the officer’s current status.

Smith said she got out of the hospital Feb. 22. She said she won’t be able to return to work at a nearby Dillons until June.

“I’m better,” she said. “I’m still here. My grandkids still have a grandma.”

Contributing: Hurst Laviana of The Eagle.

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