Nikki Hernandez was traveling near 21st and Hillside late Monday morning when she saw several law enforcement vehicles at the corner next to Koch Arena.
At first she thought it was some traffic enforcement effort – and then she saw the guns.
“They had rifles, and all their guns were exposed,” Hernandez said of the law enforcement officers who converged on a car.
All of the guns were pointed at a white Monte Carlo that had been pulled over next to a Bank of America branch. The men inside were ordered to surrender, Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner said. They did just that, exiting the car one at a time and walking backward toward officers with their hands raised.
“The whole thing is scary,” Hernandez said, watching officers inspect the car for evidence as she stood in the arena’s parking lot. “When you see the guns drawn.”
Park City Police Chief Phil Bostian said the vehicle was mentioned in an alert issued from California in connection with a homicide on June 22 in Windsor, Cal. One of the three men inside the car was mentioned in the alert as potentially being in the company of three men linked to the homicide, although he was not connected to the killing.
The other two men were not connected to the homicide at all, Bostian said.
A Wichita Police Department K9 unit detected drugs in the car, Bostian said, but it turned out to be residue in one of two specially built hidden compartments.
The car is being seized by authorities because it had been used to transport drugs, he said, but the three men will be released. Early reports from law enforcement indicated there were four occupants of the car, but there turned out to be only three, according to police.
Law enforcement officials were alerted when cellphone companies detected pings coming from phones inside the car as it traveled east on I-70 Monday morning, Warner said. When a ping was detected in the Newton area at about 11 a.m. Monday, “troopers around here started looking for the vehicle and located it very, very shortly after,” Warner said.
The car was pulled over at 21st and Hillside after being tailed by a Park City police officer and a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper.
The Park City Police Department is leading the investigation, Warner said. Also assisting in the case were the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and Wichita Police Department.