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Wichita officer is fired after shooting gun in room full of children, wounding girl

Danielle Maples recounts the night a Wichita police officer fired two shots at her family dog close to her four children, wounding her 9-year-old daughter.
Danielle Maples recounts the night a Wichita police officer fired two shots at her family dog close to her four children, wounding her 9-year-old daughter. The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita police officer who fired at a family’s dog in a room with four children, wounding a 9-year-old girl, has been fired.

Officer Dexter Betts was fired Thursday, a source within the Wichita Police Department confirmed on Friday.

In response to a request from The Eagle under the Kansas Open Records Act, the Police Department said later Friday that Betts’ employment with the department began on Jan. 17, 2017, and ended Thursday.

Betts’ attorney, Jim Pratt, said he couldn’t comment.

The mother of the girl, Danielle Maples, has said that her daughter was struck above the eye by bullet fragments. Maples said police were responding on Dec. 30 to a 911 call she made after her husband threatened to hurt himself. After police arrived – as she and her husband stood outside their home unarmed – she heard two gunshots from inside, Maples said.

A Wichita police officer fired at her dog – in a small living room occupied by her four children, ages 6 to 10, she said.

When the officer shot at the family dog, a bullet fragmented and ricocheted off the concrete floor beneath the carpet where her 9-year-old daughter sat. The girl suffered wounds above her eye. At the hospital, Maples saw a bag with three fragments taken from her daughter’s forehead. Her 6-year-old son was next to the officer when he fired, she said. One bullet hit the floor a few feet from where her daughter sat.

The officer’s target: a dog described by the family as a 35- to 40-pound miniature English bull terrier named Chevy. The dog suffered slight wounds from bullet fragments, Maples said.

Maples and her attorney, Charley O’Hara, will meet with the District Attorney’s Office on Monday morning to view video of the shooting, O’Hara said Friday.

District Attorney Marc Bennett said of that upcoming meeting: “We have an obligation to discuss cases with victims, which we regularly do.” The case remains under investigation and under review by prosecutors, who have yet to make a final decision on whether to file charges, Bennett said.

Justin Nix, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, told The Eagle it’s difficult to “Monday-morning-quarterback” an officer’s decision and that “there’s a lot of moving parts” in this case with a reportedly suicidal person, a gun and what police described as a charging dog.

Still, Nix said, “certainly with kids around in tight quarters … that’s disturbing” that the officer fired close to them.

A police spokesman has confirmed that an officer fired two shots but said he can’t say more because the incident remains under investigation.

Maples’ daughter was hurt two nights after another Wichita police officer from about 40 yards away shot and killed a 28-year-old man, Andrew Finch, who stepped onto his front porch during what turned out to be a hoax hostage call to 911, known as a swatting.

The Police Department has said that the officer fired after Andy Finch first raised his hands then lowered a hand toward his waist. Finch was unarmed.

The day after the shooting, Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay indicated to Maples that he had seen police body camera video of the officer opening fire in the room with the children.

She said Ramsay told her in a phone conversation “that what he witnessed was not only morally wrong but against their protocols and training.” He didn’t say why, she said.

After being told of the “morally wrong” comment, the Police Department spokesman said without elaborating: “There are inaccuracies in the information that was given to you.”

Maples also said Ramsay told her that the officer could possibly be “terminated” and could face charges.

The Police Department has denied The Eagle’s request for video of the shooting that wounded the girl, saying that providing it would interfere with the shooting investigation, saying that its release wasn’t mandatory because it hadn’t been played at a public meeting and saying that the video contains personal information about the girl and her family that would invade their privacy.

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