The Fourth of July proved to be less than safe and sane after a nine-hour standoff Friday in the area of 14th Avenue and Washington Street in Hutchinson.
Residents first believed the sounds were loud fireworks. However, officers found out that it may have been a firearm. Neighbors said the noises began around 6 a.m. and complaint calls were made shortly after that.
The Patriots' Parade was delayed by about 30 minutes because officials were concerned traffic would increase on Washington Street, according to bystanders.
Around 5:30 p.m., police arrested Thomas Fee, 52, after two rounds of tear gas were deployed in the two-car garage where he was hiding in the 1400 block of Washington Street. Fee fled the garage after the second round and was hit with non-lethal beanbag rounds, according to Hutchinson Police Chief Dick Heitschmidt.
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“I'm sure tear gas had something to do with it," Heitschmidt said regarding the standoff's conclusion.
Wichita Police Department SWAT, Reno County Sheriff and Reno County Dispatch were all on-scene of the standoff. The SWAT team arrived around 3 p.m.
“We always ask for help from other agencies when it’s a standoff,” Sgt. Chad Steele said. “We ended up using some of their equipment.”
Steele said it was the chief’s decision to continue on with the Patriots' Parade, and the chief could not be reached at that time.
“Initially, we didn’t move anyone,” Heitschmidt said about the evacuation. He added people were moved as a safety concern arose.
Fee allegedly barricaded himself in the garage at around 8:45 a.m. after police responded to several noise complaints and approached him as he was carrying a rifle in an alley. After he shot several times into the air and toward the ground, he entered the nearby garage, according to police. He did not shoot at any officers.
Negotiators made several attempts to talk the suspect into surrendering before tear gas was deployed. Fee rented the east side of the garage for storage space. According to Heitschmidt, officers deployed tear gas in the east side of the garage first, then discovered the suspect moved to the west side, so they deployed a second round.
In 2007, The News reported Fee was sentenced to a year of probation for possession of marijuana. According to the archives, as part of a plea agreement, a charge of criminal discharge of a firearm was dropped, along with a charge of possessing a hallucinogenic drug. Fee is currently on Community Corrections, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections website.