Wichita chief: Police checking on girl did ‘everything they could’

07/23/2014 9:38 AM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams said Tuesday that officers did everything they could have done in responding to a 911 call about 3-year-old Emma Krueger about three weeks before she was allegedly murdered.

The 911 caller, who wanted to remain anonymous, “did the right thing by calling” to report a concern about Emma but gave the wrong apartment number for the girl, Williams said.

The officers spent about 20 minutes at the south Wichita apartment complex where Emma lived, he said.

“Based on the information that they had, I would say that they had done everything they could,” Williams said in a brief telephone interview late Tuesday afternoon.

On Sunday, The Eagle reported that two officers responded to a report that a girl named Emma had bruises on her back, that the officers made it to the right building at the Falcon Pointe Apartments, 4244 S. Hydraulic, but that they went to the wrong apartment. The 911 caller had given the wrong apartment number. The newspaper reported that the caller gave Emma’s first name, her age as 4, her mother’s first name and the full name of her mother’s boyfriend.

Police have said Emma suffered beatings for maybe a month before she ended up at Wesley Medical Center on June 2, with swelling on her brain and bruises covering her body. She died two days later. Prosecutors have charged Emma’s mother, Monica Krueger, 24, and her mother’s boyfriend, Evan Schuessler, 23, with first-degree murder.

The apartment number given by the caller to the 911 dispatcher was similar to Emma’s apartment number.

On Tuesday, Williams gave this account of the officers’ actions: They received the call about 4:38 p.m. May 10, arrived about 14 minutes later, at 4:52, and stayed until 5:13. A woman who answered the door at the apartment number given by the caller said no Monica lived there. The officers checked the apartment number given by the caller with an emergency dispatcher, verifying it three times, Williams said. After being unable to find the child, they left, Williams said.

Williams said he didn’t know whether the officers knocked on other doors in an effort to find the girl. They wouldn’t necessarily go to other doors, he said.

Asked if the officers should have knocked on other doors, Williams said people sometimes complain that officers are disturbing them.

He stressed that the officers had to rely on information relayed by the dispatcher from the caller, “so that initial bit of information was critical to the officers’ going to the correct apartment.”

“The anonymous caller did the right thing by calling; it’s just that we had the wrong apartment,” he said.

The officers were dispatched to the apartment complex on a Saturday, when the apartment office is closed. Williams said there is no indication the officers returned the following Monday to check for a woman named Monica with a girl named Emma after getting the wrong apartment number.

It’s not uncommon for police to be given wrong information in disputes between adults, he said.

Asked if the anonymous caller could have been contacted later, Williams said that could occur in certain emergencies, including a shooting where someone is killed or critically injured. But at the point the officers went to check on Emma, it was a different kind of call – a “check the welfare” situation, he said.

The department doesn’t have a specific policy spelling out actions to take in a situation like the officers found themselves in, Williams said.

Asked if there is a lesson in Emma’s case, Williams said that people have an obligation to protect children. “But we also need to verify the information that we give to 911. Because we rely on information.”

Authorities tell people to call 911 if children are thought to be in immediate danger.

Also on Tuesday, Shari Lykins, a member of Emma’s extended family, gave a statement. The statement, representing Lykins’ immediate family, reads in part:

“I want to be clear that my family does not blame any one person or agency for Emma’s death. I know that there is a lot of discussion on this case and there are those that are choosing to play the blame game. But instead of pointing fingers, let’s use this to create dialog.

“The public needs to know the correct and most effective way to report suspected abuse.”

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