Police officers surrounding a house had no choice but to fire at three people fleeing from a home robbery in south Wichita on Friday morning, Chief Norman Williams said.
Officers killed one person and wounded two others in the backyard of a house in the 1200 block of West Crawford, just southwest of Pawnee and Seneca.
“The officers gave clear commands, and witnesses we interviewed said they heard the officers yelling, ‘Stop. Police officer. Get on the ground. Drop your weapons,’ ” Williams said, at a briefing Friday afternoon.
“They did not comply. The officers were forced to make split-second decisions in a life-and-death situation.”
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Williams said police were still seeking 19-year-old Bradlee L. Ohle as a “person of interest” in the case, but police said Friday night that Ohle had been found in Salina. Williams said the partial tag number officers saw on a car leaving the scene belongs to a car associated with Ohle.
The dead person is a 17-year-old, said Deputy Police Chief Terri Moses. He died at an area hospital.
The wounded men are 21 and 20. They are in fair condition at Via Christi on St. Francis.
One neighbor said Friday afternoon that there were three to four shots, close together, sounding as if they came from the same weapon. That was followed by a brief conversation a minute or so later; someone saying, “Help,” or “I need help,” followed by, “I’ll help you if you put the gun down.”
The neighbor, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, saw four to five officers and three men, in handcuffs, lying on the ground. Two of the men were wiggling around. The third didn’t move.
“He was face down,” the neighbor said.
At one point, the neighbor saw an officer walk across the backyard of the house where the shooting occurred carefully holding a shotgun, balanced in one hand, as if he was removing it from the scene.
“I was just glad no officer got hurt,” the neighbor said.
Held at gunpoint
Police said the confrontation started at about 4:45 a.m. when a woman called 911, telling emergency dispatchers that she and others were being held and robbed at gunpoint by four robbers in their house.
Officers surrounded the house shortly before 5 a.m. Two officers, one carrying a shotgun, ran to the back of the house; some of them had peered into the house and had seen men with guns.
Three men ran out the back door trying to escape; in their hands, the officers could see what looked like guns, Williams said. The officer with the shotgun, positioned near a chain-link fence in the backyard, fired multiple shots and struck one of the men who had turned toward him.
The other two men continued to run, and when they refused to stop running, another officer fired his handgun several times, striking both.
Williams would not say whether the suspects had fired. Two guns were recovered by investigators at the scene, Williams said.
The officers who fired – one with 16 years of experience, the other with four – are now on administrative leave.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office are assisting with the investigation. Standard procedure in shootings involving Wichita police is that the KBI does the investigation and hands the information to the Sedgwick County District Attorney to evaluate.
Inside the house, before police showed up, the eight people living or visiting there were held at gunpoint, and the men threatened to shoot them, Williams said. Ages of the people held at gunpoint ranged from 2 to 29, Williams said.
Four of the eight were sitting on the porch talking when four men came up to the house with guns and pushed them inside.
Police don’t think the crime was random, and they think that robbers targeted the house. But there is no indication so far that the people in the house knew the gunmen, Williams said.
Late Friday, Lt. Doug Nolte, a police spokesman, said that police, using a search warrant, found drugs on the property. Nolte said police are also looking into possible gang affiliations of the men shot, and what role if any that might play in what happened.
Other police shootings
Eleven people, including the three Friday, have been shot in officer-involved shootings in or near Wichita this year; four have died. No officers have been killed or wounded.
Law enforcement officers on Feb. 6 shot to death Darren J. Baker, 53, of Wichita, in Reno County, after a chase that began in Sedgwick County. Officers with the Goddard, Andale and Mount Hope police departments and the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office were involved in the shooting.
Marquez Smart was shot to death by police March 10 after he fired shots into a crowd on a street in Old Town. Four others were wounded, and police have not said whether any of the wounded were hit by police gunfire.
Troy Lanning, 24, was shot to death by a police officer on April 1 after he and three other people in a vehicle led police on a high-speed chase. After Lanning and the others ran from their vehicle, an officer confronted Lanning in a backyard, and shot him after he saw Lanning reach into a bag. The officer fired because he thought Lanning might be reaching for a weapon, police said.
All those shootings are under investigation by the KBI.