Crime & Courts

Wichita officer charged in December crash

A Wichita police officer was charged Thursday with vehicular homicide in connection with his role in a two-car collision last December that killed a man in southeast Wichita.

Officer Garrett Shaddix, 26, made his first appearance in Sedgwick County District Court on Thursday morning on the misdemeanor charge, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.

The charge results from the death of Christopher Perkins, 30, of Wichita, on the night of Dec. 13.

Shaddix was one of two officers driving south on Hydraulic just before 9 p.m. on that Sunday, responding to a 911 call of shots being fired in the 2300 block of MacArthur.

In accordance with police procedure for that type of call, the two patrol cars did not have their lights and sirens activated.

Meanwhile, Christopher Perkins was driving north on Hydraulic in a Saturn coupe. He let the first patrol car pass, but then attempted to turn left onto El Monte — and was hit by Shaddix's patrol car.

Perkins wasn't wearing a seat belt. He was pronounced dead at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.

Shaddix's trial is set for May 13. It will be heard by a judge, not to a jury.

Attorney Tom Warner, who is representing the Perkins family in pending civil litigation, said the charge validates what witnesses said the night of the collision.

"What they have been saying all along appears to be borne out by the evidence," Warner said.

Patrol cars have what police officials describe as "black boxes" that can show the speed and how maneuverable the vehicle was at the time of a collision.

The speed limit for southbound traffic on that stretch of Hydraulic is 40 mph, according to a sign posted a few blocks to the north.

Given the nature of the 911 call, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said in mid-December, "the officers would be pushing it" in regard to the speed limit.

But investigators for the Kansas Highway Patrol, which conducted an investigation of the crash, were unable to extract data about the crash from the black box for Shaddix's car because the engine continued to run afterward and the data was overwritten, Trooper Gary Warner said.

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