May 28, 2014

Southwest Wichita deadly shootings followed lingering feud, police say

The trail of blood zigzags down a sidewalk, into the street and back onto a sidewalk, stretching half the length of a football field.

The trail of blood zigzags down a sidewalk, into the street and back onto a sidewalk, stretching half the length of a football field.

The trail, now covered in absorbent material put down by police officers, stands as silent testimony Wednesday to a confrontation the night before that officials said killed two people and critically injured two others.

The clash was the culmination of a disagreement that had been simmering for a few days, Wichita police Lt. Randy Reynolds said. The argument, involving three residents of WindRidge Apartments near Meridian and 31st Street South, escalated and spilled into the street in the 2500 block of West Wildwood at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

At one point during the argument, a 27-year-old man who frequently visited the complex shot three people who live there “right in the middle of the street,” Reynolds said.

Cayli Phillips, 24, was shot once and died in the street, he said. Eddie Centeno-Martinez, 50, was also shot once and died later at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.

A 38-year-old man who is a cousin of Centeno-Martinez was also shot and was in critical condition at St. Francis, Reynolds said.

The suspected shooter was stabbed in the chest at some point during the dispute outdoors and was taken via private vehicle to Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph and later transferred to St. Francis, where he was in critical condition, Reynolds said.

“This appears to have been an ongoing dispute between different residents at this location,” he said, referring to the apartment complex.

Evidence indicates the man who was stabbed is the only person who fired shots in the altercation, Reynolds said. He was under guard at the hospital, and a police document indicated he had been taken into custody.

The other survivor of the clash was also being guarded at the hospital, Reynolds said.

“We are still trying to piece together the actual sequence of events,” he said.

It’s not yet clear to investigators whether the alleged shooter was stabbed before shots were fired.

A woman who asked not to be identified said she was giving her children a bath Tuesday night when she heard gunshots.

“That’s a gunshot,” she said aloud to herself. “That was real close.”

She turned the television down to hear better what was going on, then went outside. She saw emergency workers performing CPR on Centeno-Martinez, whom she referred to as “the old man.”

He owned bicycles and let children in the complex take them for rides. He was “real friendly,” she said of Centeno-Martinez.

Police have talked to numerous residents of the complex, Reynolds said, and investigators are pleased with the amount of cooperation they’ve received. They have obtained video related to the incident, but Reynolds would not say whether it was of the clash itself or of the aftermath.

Investigators would like to hear from anyone else who has video of what happened, Reynolds said. They can contact the homicide section at 316-268-4181 or investigations at 316-268-4407.

Although one of the people involved in the incident is a documented gang member, Reynolds said, the dispute is not gang-related.

Patrol cars blocked access to Wildwood between Richmond and Meridian until about 9 a.m. Wednesday. Yellow crime-scene tape closed off the street in both directions as well as a turn-in lane on the northeast edge of the complex.

Residents and neighbors watched silently or pressed cellphones to their ears as law enforcement officers collected evidence.

David Cerullo said the sight of crime-scene tape and officers responding to a violent crime has become too common in recent years.

“It’s getting real scary here,” said Cerullo, who lives on Richmond near the complex.

There was a shooting at a party nearby last year, he said, and a man was killed at the apartment complex in the first few hours of 2012.

In that incident, Bradley Wellbrock, 30, died after being stabbed in the chest during a fight that began after he tried to defuse an argument between a man and a woman on the same block where Tuesday night’s shootings occurred.

Christopher A. Cervantes, 22, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 2012 stabbing and was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.

Cerullo said he and his wife were watching a movie Tuesday night when they heard “some loud thumping going on.”

People began screaming, he said, “and then you just hear gunshots going off.”

Then more people began screaming and police cars converged on the neighborhood, he said.

“That’s routine around here,” he said, nodding toward the crime-scene tape and patrol cars parked in the street.

Still, he was relieved when he saw officers rolling up the tape and opening Wildwood back up to traffic at midmorning on Wednesday.

“Now people can get back to daily life,” he said.

The deaths of Phillips and Centeno-Martinez raise the number of homicides in Wichita this year to nine, Wichita police Lt. Dan East said.

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