Wichita police chief says he made decision on standoff suspect to ‘take him out’

Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams on Monday described last week’s efforts to subdue a suspect in a long standoff at an apartment complex, saying he eventually made the decision to “take him out.”

Williams declined to answer reporters’ questions about the final shot or shots that killed Jared Lee Woosypiti.

The police chief said he hadn’t seen the autopsy report and can’t say whether Woosypiti was killed by an officer or killed himself. The police chief said he knows who fired at Woosypiti but wouldn’t comment further because the investigation is not complete. He would say only that a shot was fired from “a safe distance” for officers.

Over the course of the standoff, which exceeded 30 hours, nine different SWAT teams from south-central Kansas were involved, Williams said.

Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson is leading an investigation of the shooting.

A police document confirmed that Woosypiti is the man who died late Thursday night at Southlake Village apartments, 4141 S. Seneca. The document also said Woosypiti was killed by police gunfire, ending a drama that started about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Woosypiti was wanted on suspicion of firing shots in a south Wichita Kmart last Wednesday afternoon and in the stabbing of his girlfriend July 4 at a Derby home. On July 5, Wichita police officers and Sedgwick County sheriff’s personnel failed to stop a stolen vehicle driven by Woosypiti, Williams said.

Williams gave this account of the threats and challenges police faced during the standoff:

Williams noted the stabbing and said that in the robbery of the Kmart at Broadway and 47th Street South, Woosypiti stole drugs and fired multiple shots at people near the pharmacy. According to a girlfriend, he had been consuming drugs before and after the robbery.

Authorities also had information through the U.S. Marshal’s Office that he was making bombs with nails in them.

Someone in his family indicated he was talking about “suicide by cop,” that he would not come out of the apartment and that if officers came in for him, the apartment “would go up like the Fourth of July.”

With a citizen’s help, police were able to use a partial car tag number and authorities tracked him to the apartment complex on South Seneca. Police were able to get a female resident out of the apartment where Woosypiti was staying.

Police activated a SWAT team, and between 7 and 10:30 p.m. the first night of the standoff, Woosypiti fired rounds at officers on five different occasions. About 10 p.m., after consultations at the command post, police set off a controlled blast on the south side of the apartment building. They wanted to get tear gas inside. By that point, Woosypiti had barricaded doors and windows, mostly using furniture.

Through the night and into the morning, police continued to try to wait him out, Williams said.

About 5:40 a.m., police had contact with him. He said more than once that he was coming out, but he didn’t. He instead appears to have kicked a hole through the drywall into the apartment to the west of the unit he was in. At 8:24 a.m., police got a phone to him by throwing it into the unit. Throughout the day, they used loudspeakers and tear gas and kept asking him to surrender, but he didn’t respond, Williams said.

Later, on the second night of the standoff, when a K-9 team and SWAT officers tried to close in, he apparently heard them and fired. Police used “suppression” fire to give the K-9 team and officers time to safely get out. About four hours later, at about 10 p.m., police decided to use more controlled explosives and a water cannon to knock down drywall in both apartments to get a better view of him and so tear gas could be deployed.

At about that same time, after consulting with the city law department and other agencies – and after considering the officers’ fatigue, Woosypiti’s crimes and the threats he posed – “I made the final decision to go ahead and take him out,” Williams said.

“If the shot was there, let’s take it and end this threat to our community.”

Henderson, the Reno County sheriff, said the investigation of the standoff is being done as part of a new regional “unified approach in working officer-involved shootings,” with a goal of having “the highest level of integrity.” Henderson said he had been approached by Williams and Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter. Henderson has assigned three detectives to the investigation, which also will involve the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office and the state fire marshal. Scores of officers will be interviewed. Residents of the apartment complex also will be interviewed. All reports will be turned over to the district attorney’s office.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said that at a meeting he requested in April, the region’s law enforcement agencies discussed “ways to protect the integrity, impartiality and objectivity of investigations that involve law enforcement officers. When one agency has primary involvement in an officer-involved event, efforts are taken to ensure another, outside agency – that was not primarily involved – takes the lead investigative role to ensure the impartiality of the investigation. The goal is to ensure that, when possible, a primary agency is not interviewing its own officers.”

In the case of the standoff, the Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Bureau of Investigation were among the agencies with primary involvement, he said. Because the Reno County Sheriff’s Office was not as involved in the standoff, Williams and Easter asked Henderson to be lead investigator, Bennett said.

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