Sheriff's deputy, suspect dead of gunshot wounds

It started shortly before noon Monday with the report of a theft, a seemingly routine call.

It ended with a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy dead from gunshot wounds and a suspect dead after exchanging gunfire with officers.

It was too early Monday night to say how and why it occurred, Sheriff Bob Hinshaw said.

The slain deputy, Brian S. Etheridge, was an "excellent deputy," Hinshaw said. He had spent a little more than a year with the Sheriff's Office. He was 26.

He leaves a wife and a small child.

The 27-year-old suspect's name was not released.

Etheridge's wounding drew a massive response — by scores of officers from state, federal and local agencies around the Wichita area.

They came with shotguns, assault rifles and body armor and were aided in their search by a helicopter and officers on horseback.

They closed down part of South Rock Road near McConnell Air Force Base so emergency vehicles could fill the wide street. It was lined with mobile command vehicles, Humvees, K-9 units, ambulances and fire trucks, on standby.

Officers cordoned off an area between Rock and Webb roads and between 31st and 39th Street South — just east of the Air Force base — and asked people in that area to evacuate if possible.

Earlier in the day, Hinshaw sounded optimistic about Etheridge's chance of surviving, saying he was in critical but stable condition. Hinshaw asked for prayers.

But at a news conference outside the courthouse Monday evening, Hinshaw said the deputy's condition had worsened, that he had been taken back into surgery and that he died at 4:20 p.m. His family was with him.

"There are a lot of people that are hurting tonight besides his wife," Hinshaw said.

The suspect, whom Hinshaw declined to name, died at 6:10 p.m. after being taken to a hospital after he exchanged gunfire with officers, Hinshaw said.

The last Sedgwick County sheriff's officer to die in the line of duty was Sgt. Ken Snider, who was stabbed during a domestic disturbance at a house on April 18, 1997.

Vigil draws hundreds

Hundreds of people turned out to Old Town Square after 9 p.m. for a candlelight vigil for the slain deputy.

"This is the least we can do for the family," said Kevin Lackey, an officer with the Eastborough Police Department who was in the first wave of officers to arrive at the crime scene Monday afternoon.

Lackey was impressed by how many people came to honor a fellow officer.

"The numbers kind of surprise me because it was so impromptu," he said. "It's a brotherhood. You don't have to eat lunch together every day and you don't have to be at each other's house. It's a family and we stick together.

Attorney General Steve Six issued a statement late Monday saying he was "saddened by the senseless and tragic death of Sedgwick County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Etheridge. He died in the line of duty, protecting his community and his fellow Kansans. He put his life on the line for the safety of others and we will never forget that.... My prayers go out to Deputy Etheridge's family, friends, and fellow officers as they grieve this terrible loss."

Timeline of events

Hinshaw gave this timeline of the day's events:

At about 11:42 a.m., Etheridge received a call of a larceny at a residence in the 3600 block of South Rock Road, outside the city limits.

He arrived at about 11:51 a.m. At 12:01 p.m., he reported to a dispatcher that he had been shot.

Hinshaw said Etheridge had been wounded in his torso and leg or foot.

Earlier in the day, Hinshaw said authorities were considering the possibility that the report of a larceny might have been "a set-up" to lure an officer to the house.

Asked later about a possible motive, Hinshaw said it was too early to say.

During one of several briefings Monday, Hinshaw had said, "We're trying to resolve this as peaceably as possible... trying to make sure nobody else gets hurt."

The shooting occurred just east of McConnell, but Hinshaw said there did not appear to be any connection with the base.

The suspect

Authorities thought the man had barricaded himself in a house at or next to where the shooting occurred, Hinshaw said.

Shortly before 4 p.m., police fired tear gas into the house where they thought the man was located and deployed a robot in an attempt to confirm his presence. But the robot could not get into the house.

At some point late in the day, officers spotted the suspect in a field about a quarter-mile from where the shooting occurred. He got to his feet and ran and was seriously wounded in an exchange of gunfire, Sedgwick County Undersheriff Michael Stover said.

Authorities established a location for nearby residents returning from school or work to remain until the situation was resolved.

Hinshaw said investigators were interviewing relatives and neighbors of the suspect.