A 30-year-old man was fatally wounded by a Wichita police officer after pulling a knife following a high-speed chase and coming at the officer, then two Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies, on a residential street early Thursday morning, law enforcement officials said.
“We’re fortunate we did not have a law enforcement officer either killed or injured in the line of duty,” Police Chief Norman Williams said.
David Zehring was shot several times just after 2:30 a.m. Thursday by the officer as he came at a sheriff’s deputy with a knife on Mount Carmel, just north of Maple in west Wichita, Williams said.
Zehring and the officer were both preparing to turn left from opposite directions onto 15th Street from Gow shortly before 2:30 a.m. when Zehring used a flashlight to get the officer’s attention, Williams said. The officer then drove up to Zehring and asked him what he wanted.
Zehring asked for his name and badge number, Williams said. The officer decided to pull over and talk to Zehring further, but Zehring drove away.
Police chase begins
The officer began to follow Zehring and attempted to pull him over at 13th and St. Paul, according to a recording of the dialogue between the officer and a 911 dispatcher.
But Zehring refused to stop, turning south onto McLean Boulevard. Speeds climbed to 50 miles an hour and later 75 miles an hour as Zehring continued south.
During the chase, Williams said, Zehring placed his flashlight outside the driver’s-side window.
“He’s got a surefire flashlight,” the officer reported to a dispatcher, according to the 911 tape. “He’s trying to strobe it to obstruct my vision.”
Officers placed spike strips on Meridian, but Zehring avoided them before turning west on Maple.
Another set of spike strips flattened the right front tire of the red Chevy Impala as Zehring continued west on Maple, Williams said. He turned north on Mount Carmel and parked the car along the east curb.
He got out and began striding toward the officer who had stopped nearby. As he walked toward the officer, Williams said, Zehring reached into his coat pocket with his right hand and pulled out a knife. He used his left hand to pull the blade out of the knife’s handle.
The officer, meanwhile, was attempting to pull out his gun as he exited his car, Williams said.
Two sheriff’s deputies who reached Mount Carmel just after the officer saw Zehring come at the officer with an exposed blade, his arm raised to strike. One deputy deployed his Taser, but the charge had little to no effect on Zehring, who is about 6-feet-3 and 300 pounds.
He was also wearing a jacket, Williams said, which can reduce a charge’s effectiveness. But the use of the Taser turned Zehring’s attention from the officer to the deputy. He started coming at the deputy, prompting the second deputy to deploy his Taser.
Once again, the charge had little effect on Zehring, who threatened the second deputy with the knife.
The officer then fired multiple shots at Zehring, who was hit and collapsed in the street.
He was taken by ambulance to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, where he was pronounced dead at 3:08 a.m.
Cameras capture incident
“The gentleman was so aggressive,” Williams said of Zehring, adding that if the deputies had not been there, the incident could easily have resulted in “a negative outcome” for the officer.
Dashboard cameras in the deputies’ vehicles captured the incident, he said, allowing investigators to see what happened.
Officers found numerous weapons in Zehring’s car, including knives and a sword in the back seat.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said Butler County deputies responding to a disturbance between two family members a year ago seized 53 handguns, rifles and a shotgun from Zehring.
“We were fortunate nobody was hurt” in the incident, Easter said.
Zehring had a DUI in 2004, Williams said, but “no major type of criminal action” prior to Thursday morning’s incident.
He was charged with aggravated assault in 2012 but pleaded down to a misdemeanor, Williams said. He also was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in 2006.
Officials said they’ll never know what prompted Zehring to behave the way he did prior to being shot.
The officer, who has been with the department for three years, reported during the pursuit that Zehring had “slurred speech” and “bloodshot eyes” and “may have a weapon.”
He has been placed on administrative leave in accordance with department policy pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident, Williams said. The two deputies have the next two days off as part of their normal schedule and will be assessed after that to see if they’re fit to return to duty, Easter said.
Shots jolt neighborhood
Darrell Black was sound asleep about a half-block north of Maple when he was jolted awake by the sound of gunfire.
“I heard about five or six shots – rapid shots,” Black said as he stood in the front yard of his house on Mount Carmel and watched a tow truck preparing to tow the red Impala away. “Maybe I missed some of the shots while I was asleep.
“By the time I got outside, the cops were lined up and the guy was lying in the street, shot,” he said. “I saw them take him away on a stretcher.”
Law enforcement officers began going door-to-door to see if bullets struck any houses and caused injuries, Black said.
“It’s really strange – this is a really quiet neighborhood,” said Black, who has lived there for about five years. “It’s a good neighborhood for kids.”
He has children and grandchildren living with him.
“My grandson, it scared him to death,” Black said of the shooting. “He jumped straight out of bed.
“It’s strange to hear gunshots over here. The only thing we hear is fireworks on the Fourth of July.”