Crime & Courts

DA releases body-cam video in police shooting that hurt 9-year-old Wichita girl

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett on Thursday released body camera video that shows a police shooting that wounded a 9-year-old girl and led to a Wichita officer being fired in January.

Dexter Betts was at the girl's home in response to a 911 call on Dec. 30 when he shot twice at her dog, a 35- to 40-pound English bull terrier named Chevy. The girl was sitting behind the dog on the floor in the living room. Three other children were also in the room.

Betts' rounds missed their target. But bullet fragments that ricocheted off of the concrete floor under the carpet hit the 9-year-old's face above her eye, injuring her.

Betts defense attorney has said the dog was attacking the officer.

Dexter Betts mug.jpg
Former Wichita police officer Dexter Betts is charged with one count of aggravated battery in a shooting that wounded a 9-year-old girl on Dec. 30, 2017. Courtesy photo Sedgwick County Jail

An attorney for the girl's family, Charley O'Hara, has previously told The Eagle that the girl was directly in Betts' line of sight and line of fire when he pulled the trigger. The body camera video Bennett released Thursday in response to a request from The Eagle shows the girl partially illuminated by Betts' flashlight in the moments before the shooting.

The footage shows Betts and another officer approaching the house with flashlights and going in through the front door. Two of the children are standing in front of a television in the living room. The girl is sitting on the floor in front of a couch. Betts checks the hallway and a few rooms quickly then returns to the living room.

"Ok, we got a dog inside here, too," he says on the video.

Right after, Betts shouts "Whoa! Whoa!" The camera swings over to show a dog moving on the floor between Betts and the girl. It barks. Betts fires two shots.

The girl immediately wails, "Ow! Ow! Ow, you hurt my eye! Ow! Ow!"

Betts then tells the children to get out.

When Betts is asked over his police radio what happened, he says: "Dog inside attacked us."

The video Bennett released Thursday to The Eagle is 6 minutes, 22 seconds long. A copy of it is published on www.Kansas.com.

It's rare for body camera footage from Wichita police to be released. The Eagle sued the city after it denied requests to release body camera video that shows an Iraqi American family being detained at a Wichita bank in September and footage connected to a hit-and-run crash that allegedly involved an off-duty Wichita police officer who had been drinking.

Bennett agreed to release the body camera video in the December shooting in response to a request from The Eagle after parts of it were shown in court during a hearing last week.

Evidence presented in open court, including video footage, becomes part of the public record even if it hasn’t been released before.

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At last week's preliminary hearing, Betts was bound over for trial on a felony aggravated battery charge connected to the girl's injury. He has pleaded not guilty to that charge.

The case is thought to be the first in two decades where a Wichita police officer is facing criminal charges for an on-duty shooting that resulted in an injury or death. The Wichita Police Department fired him less than a month after the girl was hurt.

The city of Wichita previously refused to give a copy of the video to The Eagle, saying it is not required by law to do so and that releasing it would violate the girl's privacy.

O'Hara, the family's attorney, has previously said that authorities should release the video so the public can see the officer’s actions and “people can make up their own mind.”

Police went to the girl's home, on North Gentry, after her mother called 911 saying her husband had put a gun in his mouth, according to testimony in court. The husband was unarmed and standing in the driveway with his hands up when Betts and another officer arrived.

The girl and her siblings were in the living room when officers went into the front door to see who was inside the home and find the gun described in the 911 call. The dog was inside with the children. The dog also was hit with bullet fragments.

At Betts' hearing last week, Bennett argued that the officer acted recklessly and with disregard for the girl's life and safety when he fired his gun at the dog because it was too close to the girl and he didn't have a clear background.

Defense attorney Jess Hoeme disagreed that Betts' actions were inappropriate, saying the officer "acknowledged the danger" of an attacking dog and dealt with it.

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