A man driving a stolen pickup and chased by Wichita police sped through traffic lights and stop signs before smashing into another pickup, killing the innocent driver, according to police and a recording of emergency radio traffic.
The tragedy on a busy street, around 10 a.m. Tuesday, plays out second by second in the recording. From the recording, it’s not clear exactly when the chase began, but it appears the fatal collision at Harry and Wichita occurred a little less than two minutes after someone reported the driver of the stolen vehicle starting to “roll,” first fleeing south, then north.
About 40 seconds after the stolen GMC pickup was reportedly moving, it ran a stop sign at Gold and Funston.
For much of the recording, sirens can be heard blaring. At times, someone can be heard asking about the speeds involved in the pursuit.
A few seconds after the truck sped through the stop sign at Gold and Funston, an officer can be heard saying, “He’s losing me. He’s flying through every light.”
About 50 seconds later, witnesses would later say, the truck flew north on Wichita, past another stop sign, and collided with another pickup on Harry.
The impact was so violent it rattled windows in a nearby carpet store, tucked in the middle of a densely populated residential and commercial area a few blocks west of Broadway in south-central Wichita.
Authorities had not released the name of the victim by Tuesday evening. But records indicate that the truck driven by the man who was killed was owned by someone who lived near the collision scene.
The driver of the stolen truck appeared to be bleeding from injuries suffered in the collision.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sedgwick County spokeswoman Amanda Matthews provided this basic timeline, based on information from emergency dispatchers: An officer was flagged down at 10:01 a.m., the stolen vehicle was spotted at 10:05, a pursuit began at 10:06 and the crash occurred at 10:07. Earlier in the day, a dispatch supervisor said the collision occurred at 10:08.
Police Chief Norman Williams said Tuesday afternoon that he couldn’t yet say whether officers followed the department’s policy on chases. Williams said he would speak to news media about the incident during the regular briefing for reporters at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Shortly after the collision, police Capt. Max Tenbrook gave this account: A person had reported a stolen pickup, and an officer spotted the green GMC Sierra at Osie and the Arkansas River. The officer stopped the pickup nearby — a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said it was at Osie and Exchange, near the river. “A brief exchange” occurred between the officer and suspect, and the suspect then took off in the stolen truck, Tenbrook said. The officer began a pursuit, but it was called off a short time later, he said. The man in the stolen truck continued to flee, however, “driving fast,” Tenbrook said.
Police thought the man could be armed, according to the emergency radio recording. He was described as looking “scraggly.”
A worker at a carpet store at Harry and Wichita, who did not want to give his name, said the green truck was going north on Wichita at a “very, very high speed” before it ran a stop sign and struck a black Chevrolet Colorado broadside. The Colorado then struck a tree on the northwest corner of the intersection.
Another witness, Ivan Rodriguez, said it looked like the green truck was turning onto Harry when it collided with the black Colorado. The force of the collision “takes them both into the tree,” Rodriguez said. He was working outside a mechanic’s shop when the collision occurred.
Another witness said she saw officers put the man from the stolen truck in handcuffs before he was taken away by ambulance.
Several of the Wichita Police Department’s top officials, including Williams, came to the crash site Tuesday.
Kansas Highway Patrol troopers are investigating the collision.
Contributing: Hurst Laviana and Stan Finger of The Eagle