No charges will be filed against police officers in the shooting death of Icarus Randolph last July, District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Friday afternoon.
Randolph was killed last July 4 when he approached Wichita police officers with a knife and a Taser was ineffective.
“The conclusion in this case is that the police officer was placed in a situation where he objectively and reasonably felt he needed to defend himself against the advance of someone who was not responding to calls … either from the officer or from family,” Bennett said. “He did not respond to non-lethal force when the Taser was used, and as a result of this, I find that there is no basis for criminal charges to be filed in this matter.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Wichita Eagle
Bennett released his full report on the shooting Friday afternoon, which he said is in an effort to introduce more transparency to his office.
“To have a press conference to say I’m not going to do anything may strike some as sort of a wasted effort, but my point in doing so, my point in adding depth and more and more information in these is, I think people have an expectation of transparency, and if they’re going to have any faith in the quality of the investigations, have faith in the people who make the decisions, those people – me – need to be able to stand up here and answer questions and give as much information as possible,” Bennett said.
He ‘just wasn’t there’
Here’s the account given in Bennett’s report:
On the morning of July 4, Randolph’s family found him sitting on a couch wearing just camouflage shorts. He did not respond to family members when they would try to interact with him.
Knowing Randolph was a veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, family members first called the VA and other local mental health associations to request help. The agencies advised calling 911.
Some family members had seen him holding a folding knife with an approximately 4 1/2-inch blade, but were concerned that if they told dispatchers he had a knife, “things might go badly, so that information was not provided,” Bennett said.
“And, um, they asked different questions about him,” one family member told police. “Like was he suicidal. I said, ‘No.’ Said he had a weapon, um, which I really did see one and a-at first, I said, ‘Yeah.’ Like he had a knife, but I later went back with ’em and said he didn’t because my thoughts were, well, if I tell ’em he has a weapon, I don’t want them to come out and, you know, mean any harm.”
Two officers arrived at the house at 7815 E. Clay and began to talk with family members outside for multiple minutes, deciding what they could do. Family members told police investigators they were requesting Randolph be taken to Via Christi’s Good Shepherd, a local mental health treatment center.
“I think it’s important for citizens to understand what the role of law enforcement is in that moment,” Bennett said. “If no crime has been committed and no crime was reported, the only question for officers is, is there an individual who has … evidence to support they are a threat to themselves or others. The family did not describe that Mr. Randolph had been threatening them or had been suicidal, so a great deal of conversation took place between officers and family about what they could do given those limited facts.”
During their conversation, all parties reported hearing a loud vocalization coming from the house. Family members inside the house said he threw a chair and witnessed a window shade come down, before describing Randolph kicking out the screen door. Some accounts vary in the speed at which he was walking – some say it was fast and others say it was slow – but all agree it was deliberately toward the officer standing in the yard. The other officer was standing in the street.
Family members yelled “No!” and “Stop!” to Randolph, and the officers also told him to halt.
A family member told police Randolph “wasn’t hearing me,” and that he “just wasn’t there.”
The officer began backpedaling and fired his Taser, which “momentarily” stopped the advance “for about a half-second,” he later told investigators.
Bennett said the Taser later was taken to an independent lab and was “found to be in proper working order.”
“I don’t know if Mr. Randolph was in just such a state that it didn’t stop him,” Bennett said. “It’s also possible the probes hit too close together, one to the other, for there to be a sufficient arc, for it to be a truly impactful charge that could have affected him.”
The officer standing in the street noticed Randolph was carrying a knife in his right hand, and yelled “knife,” at which point the other officer drew his service weapon and fired four shots into Randolph’s chest. He then fell forward.
The officer who fired said he was running out of room to back up, as there was a parked car immediately behind him.
“I felt threatened as soon as I saw the knife, and – and he already looked like he was going to do me some harm,” the officer told investigators.
Reaction to the decision
The officer who shot Randolph had received Critical Incident Training, intended to help officers assist people with mental health issues.
Djuan Wash, director of communications at Sunflower Community Action, a local activist group, said he was surprised to learn the officer who shot Randolph was the one that had received special training. He thought it was the other way around.
“Even with that being said, it’s important to know – how is that training working,” Wash said. “Is that training working?”
Wash said Sunflower Community Action is “disappointed that the situation has resulted in the officer not being charged with any crimes.”
“The reality of the situation is that the family called police for help, and rather than giving any help, that officer that showed up escalated the situation, argued and berated the family over the rights of their loved one and then killed him,” Wash said.
Wash said the officer should have de-escalated the situation, distanced himself from it, and gotten Randolph to a mental health facility.
“This was a situation where there was … a veteran suffering from PTSD,” he said.
“Let’s not forget this was Fourth of July weekend. There were a lot of fireworks going on. What was going on through Icarus’ mind? He’s been on three tours in Iraq. That’s very trying on a person’s psyche, and it stands to be possible he was in mental distress due to the fireworks. Did the officer actually take any time to assess any of that?”
Bennett said it is not his job to assess whether things could have happened differently; rather, it is “to assess what was, in fact, done without trying to add a lot of commentary about what I wish would have happened here.”
Wash contacted Randolph’s family Friday evening and said the family wanted to consult its attorney before giving any statements.