Crime & Courts

Derby shooting victim: 'I just didn't want to die'

Julie Dombo spoke calmly and clearly in court on Tuesday about the day her life changed.

That day — Aug. 11, 2015 — Dombo walked into a Derby AT&T store after her morning stroll. She had arrived around 9 a.m. and text messaged her sister for a bit before going inside to get help fixing a cellphone issue.

She didn’t think much of the man who followed her in, she said.

But moments later, he drew a gun and fired twice.

The injuries she suffered — a bullet wound to the arm and another to the chest that punctured her lung — would eventually result in doctors amputating her limbs to save her life.

“When the gun went off … it was intense pain. And I said, ‘You shot me,’ ” Dombo said from the witness stand, recalling the encounter.

“I thought I was going to lie there on the floor and bleed to death.” She added: “I just didn’t want to die.”

The man who prosecutors say is responsible for Dombo’s injuries, 27-year-old James Michael Phillips, is standing trial this week for attempted first-degree murder, attempted capital murder and seven other felony crimes. Tuesday was the first day the jury — eight women and six men — heard from witnesses.

Dombo in court identified Phillips as the shooter.

Prosecutors contend Phillips devised “a meticulous plan” not only to rob the store of cellphones but to control the people inside. He posed as a customer — asking questions about prepaid cellphone plans and the cost of high-end smartphones — they say, before drawing a handgun and demanding access to the safe in the back of the store. In addition to the gun, he carried handcuffs, gloves and zip ties.

When Dombo, then a 61-year-old retired guidance counselor, refused to go in the back of the store out of fear she would be tied up, raped and killed, Phillips turned the gun on her and pulled the trigger, according to testimony in court.

“When things didn’t go his way, he lost control. He got angry,” Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Matt Dwyer said.

Phillips, meanwhile, painted the events of Aug. 11 as a situation gone wrong.

“Here’s a young man who went out to do somethings to support his family,” he said. But it didn’t turn out as planned, he said, adding: “There was no intent to murder anyone.”

During his opening statements in court, he called on jurors to use common sense and doubted the state’s ability to prove his guilt.

Authorities arrested Phillips in southeast Wichita after he fled from the AT&T store in a white SUV. During a police chase, Phillips allegedly fired at a Derby police officer who was in pursuit, leading to the attempted capital murder charge.

He has pleaded not guilty to all counts against him. In Kansas, an attempted capital murder conviction can bring a life prison sentence.

In an unusual move for a case in which the criminal charges are so severe, Phillips is representing himself. He has refused repeated suggestions by judges leading up to his trial that he enlist the help of a defense attorney.

District Judge Joe Kisner, who is presiding over the trial, warned Phillips that if he couldn’t follow court decorum and avoid outbursts, he would end the self-representation and appoint a lawyer for him.

On several occasions Tuesday, Phillips became agitated with prosecutors who objected to some of his witness questions and muttered expletives at them.

In addition to Dombo’s recounting of the shooting, jurors heard from law enforcement officers who helped stop Phillips’ flight from the store, a Wesley Medical Center surgeon who operated on Dombo after she was brought in by paramedics, and one of the AT&T store’s employees.

A man who aided Dombo after the shooting and saw Phillips running from the store also testified.

Testimony will resume Wednesday morning. The trial is expected to last about a week.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker

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