Cindy Klangos looked out her front door in the 700 block of South Terrace at 3 a.m. Friday and saw an armored vehicle.
Then she saw a shadowy outline of at least 15 men wearing camouflage uniforms.
“Oh my gosh, that’s a SWAT team,” she thought to herself.
Klangos was about to watch the arrest of Jan Tracy Kilbourne, the suspect in the Labor Day shooting of a Butler County sheriff’s deputy.
She and her husband live across the street from the house that she would soon learn was surrounded by police. She thought she knew the tidy neighborhood near Kellogg and Oliver where they have lived for almost 20 years.
Klangos said she had fallen asleep in her favorite chair in the back of the house while watching TV, but her husband turned it off.
“When he did that, I woke up,” she said. “We’re pretty much night owls. For some reason whenever I wake up, I always come to the front door and look out.”
She didn’t know it at the time, but Wichita police had been keeping the house under surveillance for hours after receiving a tip that Kilbourne was there. They were in the process of making their move.
“I didn’t hear anything; there was no noise,” Klangos said. “One man was on top of the armored truck, the rest standing around the back of it.”
No lights, except dim illumination from street lights. Klangos said she saw a black Mercedes sitting in front of the house.
“This is not a Mercedes neighborhood,” she said. “It doesn’t belong here.”
As she – and now her husband – continued to watch, she saw officers march two by two up the driveway to the back of the house. Two cars were parked on the rear part of the driveway.
“Then we heard glass and like wood breaking,” Klangos said. “We found out later they had used a battering ram to bash in the back door.”
Five minutes or so passed, and suddenly blinding lights were turned on. Six or seven police cars were at the scene. The SWAT team hopped on the outside of the armored vehicle, she said.
“I thought that was kind of strange,” Klangos said. “Then I heard someone say, ‘I think we got the wrong house.’ I thought, ‘Great.’”
But they obviously did have the right spot. Law enforcement continued with the operation. She never saw any weapons drawn.
An officer arrived with a German shepherd. He had the dog sniff around the Mercedes, then took the dog up to the front porch and let it off the leash so it could sniff around the outside of the house, Klangos said.
The armored vehicle drove down the street; more police came. At one point, a fire truck arrived and stayed briefly, she said.
What she didn’t see was the cops arresting Kilbourne.
“Apparently they caught the fugitive behind somewhere in the alley,” Klangos said. “I never saw him.”
Police said they have suspected the house to be the site of drug traffic for more than a year. Klangos, however, said the people living at the rental house had moved in within the past week.
“We’re all tight neighbors around here,” she said. “We know everybody. But they just moved in. I wouldn’t know what their regular behavior would be.”
Klangos said she did have her concerns about the family that moved out about two weeks ago.
“They really kept to themselves,” she said. “It’s one of those houses where it’s hard to figure out who was living there. They didn’t have a vehicle. They walked everywhere.
“We suspected there was drug activity going on there. There were a lot of people coming and going. But I didn’t realize they had moved out until I saw a ‘for rent’ sign up a couple of weeks ago.”
Klangos later took her teenage daughter to school Friday morning and returned to collect her thoughts.
The last police car left about 10:30 a.m. after an officer talked to a woman who had just returned to the house. The black Mercedes was still parked in front of the house.
“The neighborhood has changed so much,” Klangos said. “Maybe it’s time to move. But it doesn’t matter where you go these days, right?”