Crime & Courts

Wichita police: Store gunman had guard thinking ‘he’s going to be shot’

Wichita police have a man in custody after receiving calls of a man with a gun at the Burlington Coat Factory store in east Wichita on Monday morning. (Aug. 13, 2012)
Wichita police have a man in custody after receiving calls of a man with a gun at the Burlington Coat Factory store in east Wichita on Monday morning. (Aug. 13, 2012) The Wichita Eagle

The store security guard sensed something was wrong.

It was around 10:30 Monday morning, and he had just seen a 27-year-old man go to a refrigerated case at the front of Burlington Coat Factory at Eastgate Mall, on the southeast corner of Kellogg and Rock. The man took out a Sprite and guzzled it. When the store guard asked the man whether he was going to pay for the pop, he said he was not. The man then pulled a small-caliber revolver from his waistband.

“And the guard thinks basically he’s going to be shot,” Wichita Deputy Police Chief Tom Stolz said.

Standing 6 to 8 feet from the guard, he fired one shot, missing the guard but piercing a plastic stand used for hair bands, Stolz said.

At the time of the shooting, the store had been occupied by at least 20 customers or employees, including a pregnant woman.

After firing at the guard, the gunman turned and pointed the gun at about three other people, Stolz said.

“Of course, they’re hitting the deck … and there’s others that are scrambling to the back of the store,” he said.

No one was wounded, and police rushing to a 911 report of the shooting quickly subdued the gunman by using a stun gun in the store. Police didn’t see the man with a gun when they arrived, and officers didn’t fire a shot, Stolz said.

The man was injured in a brief scuffle with officers. He was released from a hospital and booked into jail, police Capt. Hassan Ramzah said late Monday afternoon. The man could be charged Tuesday or Wednesday, Stolz said.

Police didn’t give the man’s name. Jail records said he was being held on suspicion of aggravated assault and theft. Jail records identified him as Jake L. Jacobs, 27.

Most of the account of the shooting comes from an interview Stolz gave Monday afternoon, based on a preliminary investigation of the incident. Police are expected to provide more information at their regular briefing at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

According to Stolz, within a few minutes after the initial report of the shooting, two police sergeants and three officers pulled up in the mall parking lot. They had training on how to respond immediately to such shootings, where the goal is to neutralize the shooter and protect the innocent, Stolz said. The officers huddled briefly, then went in facing what police call an “active shooter” situation.

As the officers entered, they saw movement in a dressing area on the far north side of the store and moved that way. They had a description of the shooter, but their information was limited. At that point, they didn’t know whether there was more than one suspect or whether there were wounded victims.

“It was a nail-biter for the first several seconds when the first officers went in,” Stolz said.

He credited people in the store for moving away from the gunman.

As police closed in on the suspect, he seemed to be trying to hide, Stolz said. The officers saw “no direct threat of a gun” on the man, he said. But the man didn’t follow their commands and resisted, and they briefly struggled with him.

Police recovered a handgun from him and one spent round inside the store, Stolz said.

Investigators will try to determine whether the man had a mental condition or had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Stolz said.

Police asked that any witnesses who had not already talked to police call investigators at 316-268-4191.

For awhile after the shooting, Brian Lolar stood in the parking lot outside the store, anxiously waiting to see his wife, Cathy, who is the store’s branch manager. Cathy is seven months pregnant with their first child.

“She called me on her cell and told me to get up here,” Lolar said. “She told me she was fine, but she was stuck in her office (while the gunman was still inside).”

Cathy eventually managed to get out of the store safely.

Stolz said that the officers appeared to have responded “perfectly.”

After the Columbine shooting in Colorado, Wichita police and other departments decided to teach all officers to contain an active shooter, police officials have said. After half a dozen officers arrive, they would head in immediately, armed with special vests and ballistics gear that used to be reserved for SWAT team members.

“When the officers roll to that site, they know it’s containment, entry, neutralize as soon as possible,” Stolz told The Eagle in a story published after the shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last month.

Contributing: Rick Plumlee and Stan Finger of The Eagle

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