City officials pledged to provide answers to the mother of one of the city’s five police shooting victims, wrapping up an emotional and briefly contentious debate during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Carl Brewer told Shakeitha Scales, mother of Timothy Collins, that she will get answers as soon as possible in her son’s death. Collins was shot April 13 by police responding to a home invasion in a neighborhood near Pawnee and Seneca.
And outgoing Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz told the council that the department is revising policy to communicate better with the families of people shot by police.
In a tearful presentation, Scales told council members she still doesn’t know what happened to her son in April. Scales and Tyra Williams, the daughter of police shooting victim Karen Jackson, appeared before the council.
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“I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep coming back. I’m his mother, and that’s my job,” a sobbing Scales told the council.
“A lot of people might not care because y’all don’t know him, but I knew him every day. I have to walk past his room every day, and I have no answers.”
The debate heated up after a presentation by Mike Shatz, who heads Occupy Wichita.
As he concluded, several women in the audience jumped to their feet and began singing, “We Shall Overcome.”
Brewer demanded the singing cease. Police quickly filed into the auditorium.
“You can sing it,” he told Shatz. “They can’t. It’s your time.
“I love that song. … Come see me, and I’ll sing it with you.”
Stolz, who is leaving the department this month to head the joint city-county central inspection office, gave a lengthy presentation on how police-involved shootings are investigated. He said the department is tweaking policy to get information to families within weeks, if not days.
Stolz said police shootings are immediately turned over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office to join the police investigation.
“Over the next weeks and months, they’re turning over every stone to find out what truly happened that night,” he said. “The case is then turned over to the D.A., who makes the decision on justified or not justified shooting.”
Some parts of the investigation, including repeated witness interviews and forensic testing, can take weeks, months and in some cases, a year, Stolz said.
“I understand where the families are coming from,” he said. “Weeks and months are intolerable at times, but that is the mechanism used in Wichita and across the country because that’s what our courts ask us to do.
“We would like to contact these families in a week or two, meet and answer what questions we can. We would stick to facts because we cannot talk motives and thought processes.”
“Can I respond to that?” Shatz said loudly from the back of the auditorium.
“No,” Brewer shot back.
However, the mayor asked Shatz and another member apparently with Occupy Wichita to schedule a meeting with him as soon as possible.
“I respect what you’re doing and the importance of being able to help families,” Brewer said.
“I need you to understand some of our positions and what you can and cannot do. I don’t want you to lead some person down the wrong path. Once you lead them down the wrong path because you didn’t know, it’s not going to help them.”
Five people have been killed and nine injured in eight armed confrontations with police in recent months, none resulting in injuries to police.