Wichita police have been searching for the man who shot at officers Wednesday morning since November.
Elijah Martinez, 21, was wanted in mid-November on charges of aggravated burglary, theft and interference with a law enforcement officer, according to a Facebook post from the Wichita Police Department.
He was able to evade police until just before 10 a.m. Wednesday when a man in the 1500 block of North Caddy – near 13th and Maize – saw Martinez and a woman stealing mail, Lt. Todd Ojile said Thursday.
The man followed the pair, called 911 and gave dispatch a description of their vehicle and a tag number. That vehicle had been reported stolen four hours earlier from a QuikTrip on the east side of town, Ojile said.
As the man followed the stolen vehicle, Martinez headed south on I-235 from 13th, then exited onto Central near the 700 block of North Gilda. He pulled into an area business and the woman ran inside, followed a short time later by Martinez.
The first officer – a 23-year veteran of the department – got to the business just before 10 a.m. He talked to the business owner in the parking lot, then went inside, where he saw Martinez run into a hallway, Ojile said.
As the officer followed, Ojile said Martinez began shooting. The officer left the business to take cover outside, and Martinez followed. He continued to fire shots, Ojile said.
As the gunfire erupted, the man who witnessed Martinez stealing mail got out of his truck to take cover elsewhere. Martinez got inside of the man’s truck and took off. He drove directly at an officer who was positioned near Elm and Gilda, Ojile said.
That officer fired multiple shots at the truck, which then went west on Elm. Martinez drove through yards, hit a fence and stopped for a short period of time. As a patrol supervisor arrived, he stopped behind the stolen truck, got out of his patrol car and Martinez reversed in an attempt to hit the officer, Ojile said.
The supervisor fired one shot and Martinez continued west on Elm, then eventually west on Central. As additional police officers were driving toward the scene, Martinez fired more shots at them, Ojile said.
A business in the 5200 block of West Central was hit.
Martinez then swerved at an officer who tried to place stop sticks in the road to puncture the truck’s tires at Maple and Meridian.
The chase – which reached speeds of 80 to 100 mph – wound through west Wichita, ultimately coming to an end near Maple and Maize, where Martinez lost control of the truck. Two of the tires had been punctured by the stop sticks.
A police dog was used to take Martinez into custody. He was taken to the hospital and remains in fair condition for a gunshot wound to his lower jaw. It’s possible he will be booked into jail Thursday.
It’s unknown which of the two officers who shot at Martinez hit him, Ojile said. Both officers are on paid administrative leave, per department policy.
Deputy Chief Troy Livingston described the men as “very senior officers.” The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation.
Two holes could be seen in the truck’s back window, and the driver’s side window had shattered.
Chief Gordon Ramsay said no officers were shot.
Police chased the man, Livingston said, because they “make it a practice to chase people who are committing serious crimes.”
“Once he shot at the officers, we have severe charges against that person,” Livingston said. “Feeling that he’s a danger to the community, we elected to pursue.”
Ojile said multiple supervisors were monitoring the chase to make sure the public wasn’t in danger.
Asked about the man who followed Martinez, Ojile said, “he did an outstanding job in recognizing the crime and calling in dispatch with tag and number. Dispatch asked him to stop following because you never know what you’re going to run into.”
That man wasn’t injured.
The woman the suspect was with was taken into custody without incident in the 700 block of North Gilda for outstanding warrants. She was identified in booking reports as Karina Thomas, 22.