On the Sedgwick County emergency radio traffic, the deputy’s voice sounds urgent.
“Shots fired!” he blurts out and repeats the words.
Following a 12-minute high-speed chase from Sedgwick County, into Harvey County and ending in Butler County, he’s just been hit by shotgun pellets on his right side. And he’s announcing his own wounding over radio traffic in the fading sunlight Monday evening. He’s down on the ground off a remote dirt road near a farmhouse outside the little town of Potwin.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter breaks in over the radio traffic, speaking directly to the deputy: “Where you hit at? … Keep talking to us.”
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“Uh, can’t see out of my right eye,” the deputy answers, and his voice quickly trails off.
“Just keep talking to us,” Easter says calmly but firmly.
The dialogue can be heard in a recording of emergency radio traffic that became available Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, the deputy had improved enough to be released from a Wichita hospital, Easter said. A male suspect in the shooting of the deputy remains in serious condition, Easter said, after being shot by a state trooper who came to the deputy’s aid.
In the recording, an ambulance and police and deputies from about 10 area law enforcement agencies, some armed with rifles, are moving the deputy’s way. Sirens wail.
Two armed suspects — a man and a woman who fled from a white Cadillac the deputy was chasing — are still stalking the hedgerows and wooded fields near the deputy, and law enforcement has to contain the threat, “set up a perimeter,” in cop-speak.
“How far off is EMS?” Easter asks. He emphasizes: “We need to get him out of there, and then we’ll worry about the perimeter.”
The deputy’s voice, breathing hard, breaks in: “Shooter is a white male, passenger was a female. They are armed with a shotgun.” He’s still alone, waiting for help.
Moments later a man’s voice interrupts. “Additional shots fired.”
Easter directs that the first supervisor on the scene should accompany the deputy and notify his family.
Easter calls for a perimeter to be set up around where the suspects have just been seen and asks that dogs not be deployed until the perimeter is firm.
Minutes go by. Someone says to tell EMS that the road leading to the wounded deputy is pretty muddy and that the ambulance might get stuck. Soon, someone announces that EMS is trying to transport the deputy but that the suspects are still at large.
In a stern voice, Easter commands: “All deputies in the field: Just hold your positions. Do not,” he stresses, “attempt to take this person into custody. Wait for SWAT to show up, and we’ll start negotiations.”
But right after his orders, a man’s urgent voice calls out: “Shots fired!” And then a female dispatcher says “Additional shots,” and then the radio traffic goes silent. Then there’s static, then more silence.
A man, out of breath, barks out: “One male suspect down, gunshot wound to the chest. I’m triaging red (critical injuries) at this time. Female in custody.”
On Tuesday, Easter and Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet gave an update about the shooting, which began as a car chase in Sedgwick County.
Herzet identified the male suspect as Jason C. Perez, 35, of Gardner. Perez was convicted in 2011 for making a criminal threat and for possession or use of simulated controlled substances, state corrections records show. Perez is on probation or intensive supervision by Johnson County community corrections officials.
A second suspect, Clara C. Crosser, 27, of Gardner, was treated and released from a hospital and is being held in jail on suspicion of two counts of attempted first degree murder, Herzet said.
Easter declined to identify the deputy who was shot but said he is 33, has been with the Sheriff’s Office for five years, and works as a K-9 officer.
The sheriffs wouldn’t say which suspect they think shot the deputy. “There was a lot of gunfire,” and there is an ongoing investigation, Herzet said.
The two suspects had stayed at a Wichita hotel, Easter said.
The sheriffs gave this account:
The chase that led to the shooting began at about 6:16 p.m. in Sedgwick County and lasted about 12 minutes; four minutes later, the deputy was hit by shotgun pellets on his right side, including his eye.
The deputy saw a white Cadillac going north on I-135 at a high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic, and began to pursue it. The chase reached speeds of 90 to 120 mph. The Cadillac had a female passenger.
Traffic was light, so a sheriff’s supervisor allowed the chase to continue.
The Cadillac came to a stop on Northwest 70th near an occupied farmhouse southeast of Potwin. The deputy saw that the car was smoking and thought the engine was blown.
The two suspects fled through a hedgerow. At 6:32 p.m., the Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy was back on the air, saying he had been shot and needed assistance. The deputy had fired back. He was taken by ambulance to Wesley Medical Center, where he had surgery to his right eye, Easter said.
Herzet said a number of agencies set up a perimeter around the suspects, who continued east toward a second, occupied farmhouse. A resident had heard screaming and gunfire and told his wife they should go inside and lock the doors.
The male and female suspects walked toward the second farmhouse, each carrying a weapon. They tried to steal a vehicle. When they couldn’t take off in the vehicle, they continued to the east and north and turned and fired and hit a Butler County sheriff’s car in the driver’s side door. Then they continued to a field and fired several more rounds at deputies.
Apparently realizing that they were hemmed in, they headed back to the west. They encountered state troopers and Butler County deputies, and a trooper fired one round that hit the male suspect in the chest.
The male suspect remained in serious condition Tuesday at Wesley Medical Center and had a guard with him, Easter said.
Easter said a number of factors supported the decision to chase the Cadillac, which was registered to the woman.
For one thing, the Cadillac was driving dangerously, partly by passing other vehicles on the right, he said. A sheriff’s supervisor tracked the chase the entire time. The deputy chasing the car was calm and knew where he was. There was a concern that with the way the Cadillac was driving, it had to be stopped before “they do kill somebody,” Easter said.
It’s not clear how the deputy’s eyesight will be affected, Easter said. The deputy was shot at close range and was on the ground when others arrived, he said.
The KBI will investigate the trooper’s shooting of the male suspect.
Contributing: Stan Finger and Rick Plumlee of The Eagle and Radioreference.com.