Police on Monday released three videos, photographs and the 911 tape linked to the robbery of a Dollar General store in south Wichita late on the night of Oct. 30 that culminated in officers fatally wounding one of the robbers as he charged at them with a knife.
The Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office ruled Friday that the three officers were justified to use deadly force in subduing DeJuan Colbert, 28, who was pronounced dead about a half-hour later at a local hospital.
Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said police officials released the videos and 911 tape for three reasons: local media had requested it, the release is consistent with the police department’s stated goal of transparency, and it demonstrates what crime victims endure and what police officers have to deal with in such circumstances.
“It’s hard to watch,” Stolz said of the video. “It’s tough to look at.”
The manager of the Dollar General at 2427 W. Pawnee took a call about an hour before closing time on the night of Oct. 30 asking what time the store closed, Stolz said. The call raised his suspicions, because the store had been robbed previously.
A few minutes before closing time, the manager locked one of the two glass entry doors as a precaution. That would prove to be key, Stolz said, because “it kept the suspect from getting out to the other officers” as he tried to escape.
The video shows the first officer sidestepping a charging Colbert, whom the district attorney’s office reported came within inches of the officer with the knife. The first officer through the door fired three shots, while two other officers approaching the door fired a combined total of 32 or 33 shots.
An autopsy determined Colbert was hit 15 times by gunfire.
The other two videos released by police show the cash register area, where Colbert took money from cash registers and the manager’s wallet and cellphone, and the back of the store, where the other two robbers forced the second employee on duty to the floor and held her at knifepoint.
She felt the knife pressed into her back, Stolz said.
Colbert briefly put down the steak knife he was holding to load cash from the register till into the green plastic bag he was carrying, Stolz said, but picked it back up moments before the officers arrived. It was found next to his body where he collapsed just outside the store.
Stolz described the manager as “calm and heroic” in how he handled the robbery. He dialed 911 with the store’s cordless phone and placed it on a shelf out of view. Dispatch operators eventually overheard enough words from the unfolding robbery to recognize what was happening and alert officers nearby.
Once notified, officers arrived at the store in less than a minute.
Colbert’s younger brother, Ajalon Johnson, and Kenneth Turner were arrested at the back of the store.
Authorities say Colbert and Johnson robbed the same store on Sept. 25 and the Family Dollar store at 2559 S. Seneca on Oct. 2. Johnson, now 18, has begun serving a prison sentence of 118 months — just short of 10 years. Turner, 30, was sentenced to just under six years in prison for his role in the Oct. 30 robbery.