Crime & Courts

Man accused of shooting tax warrant officer owed nearly $400,000

Suspect asked for shooting victim by name

The Wichita Police Department offers an update into the shooting of a state employee on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Nichole Manna/The Wichita Eagle)
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The Wichita Police Department offers an update into the shooting of a state employee on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Nichole Manna/The Wichita Eagle)

When Department of Revenue employee Cortney Holloway and sheriff’s deputies went to Ricky Wirths’ Wichita home on Tuesday to seize assets in a tax warrant investigation, there were “no problems,” according to Sedgwick County sheriff’s Col. Greg Pollock.

There was even “good communication” with the person at the address, the colonel said Wednesday, adding that deputies would “consider that a non-event.”

But about three hours after the seizure, Wirths, 51, went to the Revenue taxation office at the Twin Lakes shopping center and shot Holloway multiple times, Wichita police Officer Charley Davidson said.

Wirths owes nearly $400,000 in tax warrants, according to documents filed by the Kansas Department of Revenue. One tax warrant amounts to $196,455.36 in unpaid sales tax. The other tax warrant amounts to $198,250.02 for unpaid consumers compensating use tax.

The agency said it uses property seizure as a last resort – but at least one vehicle was seized from Wirths on Tuesday. It’s possible other property could have been taken from his address, which is in the 900 block of West 35th Street North, Pollock said.

It’s standard procedure for uniformed sheriff’s personnel to accompany tax agents in a support role during investigations, to make sure things stay peaceful, Pollock said.

“I would say it’s rare” for things to turn tense, he said. “Most people are aware of the fact that they owe taxes.”

At around 2:30 p.m., Wirths went to the taxation building near 21st and Amidon. He asked for Holloway by name, and during a conversation in the front of the building, he pulled out a handgun and fired multiple times, Davidson said.

EMS workers wheel out a shooting victim from the driver's license bureau near 21st and Amidon on Tuesday. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

Davidson didn’t say Wednesday how many times Wirths fired the handgun, or where on his body Holloway was hit. However, according to emergency radio traffic, Holloway was hit in his chest, leg and finger. He was listed in serious condition Wednesday afternoon.

Holloway retreated to the back of the building and officers arrested Wirths near his home a short time after the shooting, Davidson said.

The state Revenue department’s policy is to first work with taxpayers in delinquent status to voluntarily enter into repayment agreements.

“If that effort fails, the Department is forced to issue a tax warrant, utilizing methods like bank levies, till taps, and ultimately asset seizure to ensure compliance with the law,” the agency said in a news release.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said there was no security Tuesday for workers inside the facility and they had previously complained about that to management.

The Revenue department said employees are housed behind two secure doors. Visitors are granted access from the outside by a buzzer after requesting to see an employee – presumably the way Wirths got inside.

“Often, taxpayers in delinquent status will come to the office to visit with their tax agent and meet with them in the foyer of the building,” the agency said. “KDOR is undertaking an agency-wide review of security procedures and policies in place.”

For the past six months, the agency has been in the process of delivering active shooter training to all employees. Police didn’t know Wednesday how many people were inside the building during the shooting. People in line at the nearby DMV said they heard gunshots.

Counseling resources are being provided to all KDOR employees and their offices will be closed for the rest of the week.

Holloway is a father and coach with League 42 in Wichita, according to the group’s Facebook page.

“This family has been with League 42 from the outset and we love them,” the group said. “Cortney has been an inspiration to the players he has coached and to the coaches he has assisted.”

The family released a statement Wednesday afternoon: “The Holloway family deeply appreciates the outpouring of community support, particularly from Gov. (Sam) Brownback, the employees of the Kansas Department of Revenue and the other public officials who have visited.

“In this time of difficulty, we ask for space, as well as your continued thoughts and prayers.”

Brownback said Tuesday that he is praying for Holloway and his family.

“I’m thankful for Courtney’s work and thankful for the police officers who apprehended the suspect,” he said.

The Kansas Organization of State Employees said Holloway worked in the compliance and enforcement division of the Kansas Department of Revenue.

This is the second violent incident that has happened at a Wichita business in the past week. Achutha Reddy, of Holistic Psychiatric Services, was fatally stabbed last Wednesday. Police arrested a client of his, Urmar Dutt, the same night. He is charged with first-degree murder.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, local, county and federal government employees experienced 18 nonfatal violent victimizations in the workplace per 1,000 employees between 1994 and 2011. It’s the latest report that has been released.

About 56 percent of those injuries occurred to law enforcement and security personnel. However, excluding law enforcement, government employees reported 8.7 violent incidents per 1,000 employees.

In 2011, 1 in 5 victims of workplace homicide was a government employee. During that year, the private sector experienced 367 workplace homicides, compared to 90 for government employees, the bureau said.

Davidson said businesses who want to talk to officers about office security can contact one of the police substations to ask for their community policing officer.

Nichole Manna: 316-269-6752, @NicholeManna

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