April 3, 2013

Robbery suspect shot, killed on South Seneca

Someone hit the panic alarm at Credit Union of America on South Seneca at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday.

Someone hit the panic alarm at Credit Union of America on South Seneca at 7:22 a.m. Wednesday.

Minutes later, a nearby sheriff’s deputy arrived at the credit union and saw a man fleeing from the back door. The man ran south along Seneca, then west beside a green house, discarded his baggage and disappeared.

“The suspect dropped the bag. I’m not sure where he went,” the deputy radioed to dispatch, his breath labored.

“Oh. Now he just went to the west.”

Within moments, the deputy hollered, “Shots fired! Suspect down” over his radio.

“I’m 10-4,” he said, radio code for “OK.”

“Suspect down. I’m right at 1900 S. Seneca, across the street from cash loans.”

The scene played out over emergency radio traffic Wednesday morning as authorities from multiple agencies rushed to the corner of May and Seneca, the site of an officer-involved shooting that left a man dead after he reportedly robbed the credit union branch at 1920 S. Seneca.

At the scene, some authorities examined the body, which was lying near a closed auto shop on the northwest corner of Seneca and May. Others cordoned off a perimeter around both the bank and the green house.

“We’ve got evidence in the backyard,” an officer said, according to a recording of the morning’s emergency radio traffic. “We’ll tape that off as well.”

Sedgwick County dispatchers issued a call for officers to respond to a hold-up alarm at the credit union Wednesday morning, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said at a briefing shortly after the shooting occurred. A deputy who was in the area arrived at the bank quickly and saw a man running from the building, he said.

That’s when he learned of the robbery, Easter said.

“The deputy gave chase. We don’t have a lot of details, because we’re investigating right now, but the suspect did have a weapon,” Easter said Wednesday morning. “The deputy fired and shot the suspect.”

The man was pronounced dead at the scene. Neither he nor the deputy has been identified by authorities.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. David Mattingly declined to give further details in a brief phone interview with The Eagle late Wednesday afternoon. He said Easter is expected to release more information Thursday morning during a briefing with media.

Awoken by gunfire

The gunfire woke Dale Collins, 52, who lives a few steps from the shooting scene.

He heard one shot, he said, and went to the door. Then four more in quick succession.

“Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow!’” he said, describing the sound.

Moments later, Collins walked outside, peered around a wooden privacy fence and saw officers rushing across Seneca and behind the green house.

At least one officer held the man at gunpoint for several minutes. When the others returned – some wore tan uniforms, others blue, he said – they snapped handcuffs on the man’s wrists.

Those who saw the man’s body say he was lying face down in the grass half a block from Seneca, under a “No Trespassing” sign hung on a chain link fence. His face was hidden by clothing.

Collins’ 29-year-old son, Brian, said he’s upset officers fired so close to the house, which he shares with his father, fiancee and five children.

At least one bullet whizzed by Collins’ home, piercing the siding under one window of a house across the street. Another lodged in a tree just south of his house’s property line.

The children sleep in a bedroom near his front door.

“Why are officers even shooting in a residential neighborhood?” asked Brian Collins, who also was home when the shooting occurred.

“When you come out and see a bullet hole there and there,” he said, pointing across the street, then at the tree, “and you realize if it would’ve been 20 more feet to the right, that would’ve been through my kids’ window.”

Tellers injured

Easter said at least six witnesses are being interviewed. Wichita police, sheriff’s deputies and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are investigating the officer-involved shooting; officials with the FBI are working with local law enforcement to investigate the robbery, he said.

Easter would not say whether the credit union branch was open at the time of the robbery. According to the Credit Union of America website, that branch does not offer lobby services. Drive-through hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Jackie Redburn, district manager of Chit-Chat Wireless, which is close to the shooting scene, said two young women usually work the drive-through window when she drops off the business’s daily deposit.

A Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor confirmed Wednesday evening that two women at the bank received minor injuries in Wednesday’s robbery but refused treatment at the scene.

“They wait on me every day,” Redburn said.

Officers blocked a portion of South Seneca between Dora and Jewel for about four hours while they investigated. Some business owners in the area said they were not allowed to open their stores until investigators finished.

Contributing: Suzanne Perez Tobias of The Eagle

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