Crime & Courts

December 4, 2013

Sedgwick County DA: Police shooting of Woosypiti to end standoff was justified

A 3,000-page report based on countless hours of investigation into a police shooting death that ended last summer’s 32-hour standoff in south Wichita left Marc Bennett with an obvious conclusion:

A 3,000-page report based on countless hours of investigation into a police shooting death that ended last summer’s 32-hour standoff in south Wichita left Marc Bennett with an obvious conclusion:

Use of deadly force by officers was lawful and justified.

“I’m at a loss of what else law enforcement could have done … what more they could have done to end this peacefully,” Bennett, the Sedgwick County district attorney, said Wednesday in announcing his decision.

“For this reason, no charges will be filed. This isn’t a close call.”

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson headed up the investigation that looked into the shooting death of Jared Woosypiti. He said he spent 300 hours reading the reports before passing the findings on to Bennett.

Usually, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation looks into police-involved shootings, but, in this case, the KBI had agents actively involved in the incident. While Henderson also had a SWAT team at the standoff, that unit was on standby and none of his deputies took part in the shooting, he said.

About 80 officers directly involved with the standoff were interviewed by Henderson’s team, which included three of his detectives, two of Bennett’s investigators and the state fire marshal. Two KBI agents and officers and deputies with Wichita police and the Sedgwick County Sheriff Office who weren’t part of the incident also participated, Henderson said.

About 150 law enforcement officers from 18 agencies were involved in the prolonged standoff at the Southlake Village Apartments, 4141 S. Seneca, before Woosypiti was killed in an exchange of gunfire about 10 p.m. on July 11.

Bennett noted that the 24-year-old Woosypiti fired on officers twice – with some rounds passing near officers – over the nearly two-day standoff before they finally shot him during a third exchange of gunfire.

He also pointed out that officers used numerous other tactics to end the standoff without killing Woosypiti, including water cannons, tear gas and a canine unit. The dog was trained to take the suspect down by biting him, Bennett said.

But after the dog and handlers entered the building where the suspect was hiding, Woosypiti opened fire on the unit, forcing them to jump out of a window, he added.

Bennett also noted crimes allegedly committed by Woosypiti leading up to the standoff and statements he made later that Bennett said indicated his desperate state and determination not to surrender.

Woosypiti repeatedly stabbed his girlfriend in Derby on July 4, Bennett said. The next day Bennett said he approved a warrant for his arrest on attempted first-degree murder.

Also on July 5, Woosypiti was the driver of a truck that attempted to flee a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy. When another deputy tried to put a stop stick on the road, Woosypyti almost ran over the deputy, Bennett said.

On July 10, Woosypiti fired a gun while robbing a Kmart pharmacy at 47th Street South and Broadway, taking narcotics and other drugs, Bennett said.

Woosypiti went from Kmart to a Southlake apartment where he had been staying with a woman. Before Woosypiti allowed the woman to leave the apartment, she told police, he started using methamphetamine and marijuana, Bennett said.

During the standoff, he told family members via a cellphone that he was not going back to prison and that he had the capability of making bombs that contained nails, according to the investigation’s report. Woosypiti had served six months in prison in 2011 after his probation related to a drug conviction was revoked.

Late in the afternoon of the first day of the standoff, Woosypiti used a cellphone to tell a police negotiator that he was “going out in a blaze of glory” and said, “You’re gonna see fireworks tonight,” Bennett said.

During the standoff, Woosypiti knocked in a wall to gain access to an apartment next to the one he had been staying.

Eventually, on the night of July 11, Woosypiti put himself in a place inside the barricaded apartment that officers couldn’t reach without putting themselves at risk, Bennett said.

Woosypiti approached the north window of the apartment and told officers he wanted to give up but wanted the armored vehicle moved back. KBI agents told Woosypiti to “let us see your hands, put your hands up, stop moving,” Bennett said in citing the report.

But Woosypiti would put his hands up, then drop them, put one hand up, then drop it. He kept moving and didn’t follow the agents’ commands, Bennett said.

When Woosypiti dropped his hands behind debris of a wall, SWAT officers feared he was reaching for a gun or an explosive device and they fired, striking Woosypiti, Bennett said. He was hit multiple times, with the fatal shot going through his upper torso, Bennett said.

Officers still took precautions in removing his body because they thought it might be booby-trapped. A controlled explosive device was used to drop the floor and his body down to the next level.

The armored vehicle was then used to pull his body out of the building, Bennett said.

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