Crime & Courts

Wichita cop drove up to 100 mph in town, without lights and sirens, before injury crash

File photo

A Wichita police officer speeding to a burglary call without his emergency lights and sirens on was at one point going 100 mph on Broadway in the moments before he slammed into another vehicle in downtown Wichita, according to an arrest affidavit released Wednesday.

Samuel Dugo, a two-year veteran of the Wichita police force, has been charged with a count of felony aggravated battery in connection with the March 16 crash that sent 71-year-old Donald S. Clark of Bel Aire to the hospital with brain bleeding, broken ribs and neck bones and a broken shoulder.

Clark was thrown through the windshield of his Ford Ranger pickup after Dugo’s patrol car, a Chevy Tahoe, hit him at 79 mph as he was crossing Broadway on Pine Street. Clark reportedly had stopped at a stop sign before pulling out into the intersection.

Prosecutors allege Dugo was driving recklessly that night. Dugo’s defense attorney, however, says that Dugo’s driving “was consistent with police practices and not reckless” and that the officer took “evasive action in an attempt to avoid a collision” with Clark’s truck as it drove into his path.

“All of these facts will be presented in due course and until that time we hope everyone will reserve judgment,” the attorney, Jess Hoeme, told The Eagle in an email.

“The foundation of our justice system requires a presumption of innocence and in Officer Dugo’s case we believe that presumption will be well-founded in fact. We look forward to our day in court.”

Samuel Dugo.jpg
Wichita police Officer Samuel Dugo is charged with aggravated battery in connection with an injury crash on March 16. Courtesy photo Sedgwick County Jail

The crash happened about three minutes after a man called 911 at 10:38 p.m. to say he was seeing flashlights inside a building at Central and Washington, near Old Town, and a man wearing all black and a mask standing outside. Two other police officers were dispatched to the call, but after hearing about it, Dugo decided to go, too. He was several blocks north and west of the building at the time.

The arrest affidavit used to support criminal charges against Dugo says that a location and speed tracking system on his patrol car, called an automatic vehicle location device, clocked him driving up to 100 mph on parts of Broadway south of 21st Street while he was en route to Central and Washington.

The system also recorded Dugo driving up to 75 mph on 21st Street near Arkansas and 85 mph while he was on Broadway about a block north of Murdock.

One and a half seconds before hitting Clark’s pickup, Dugo was going 79 mph on Broadway, according to the patrol car’s event data recorder – 49 miles faster than the posted speed limit of 30 mph.

He did not have his patrol lights or sirens on at the time, police have previously said.

The Wichita Police Department’s policy says the drivers of authorized emergency vehicles, including police cars, can exceed the speed limit as long they don’t endanger someone’s life or property. They have to have their lights and sirens on, the policy says.

Surveillance video from the QuikTrip convenience store at Murdock and Broadway shows Clark’s pickup stopped at the stop sign for about 10 seconds before it pulled out into the intersection, according to the affidavit. It also shows Dugo’s patrol car approaching from north of Murdock without emergency lights.

“Officer Dugo appears to be traveling much faster than other traffic” in the surveillance video, the affidavit says. He slowed “when the brake switch came on.”

Immediately after the crash, Dugo told a fellow officer that he had his emergency lights and sirens on but “had turned them off as he went through Broadway and Murdock Avenues … because he was getting close to the call and there were other officers already arriving.”

He later told investigators he turned off his emergency lights and sirens earlier — at around 13th and Broadway.

Dugo told the officer he talked to right after the crash that he thought his speed was around 45 to 50 mph when he saw Clark’s pickup in the intersection and that he pushed on his brakes but couldn’t stop in time to avoid a collision, the affidavit says.

Eighteen days after the collision, Dugo and his attorney spoke with a Wichita police detective and a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper investigating the crash. Dugo told the investigators he went to the building burglary call because only two officers had been originally sent there and “he believed they would need help,” according to the affidavit.

He told them he turned off his emergency lights and sirens “somewhere in the area of 13th Street and Broadway … to avoid alerting any suspects” to his presence, the affidavit says.

Dugo also told investigators that he “did not feel he was going 79 mph at Murdock and Broadway avenues but did not look at his speedometer” and that even if there wasn’t any other traffic “going 80 mph in that area would scare me” in an emergency situation.

Dugo started working for the Wichita Police Department on July 5, 2016, and has been on unpaid leave since June, police spokesman Charley Davidson said this week.

Dugo was charged June 19. He is due in court for a preliminary hearing Sept. 28, according to court records.

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