Crime & Courts

Armed customer killed 16-year-old armed robbery suspect at Wichita gas station, police say

The suspect in an armed robbery who was shot in the head by a customer at a south Wichita gas station died at the hospital, police said.

Wichita police did not identify the person who was killed, but said in a Saturday news release that he was a 16-year-old male. The customer who shot him has not been arrested.

Police have not said whether the 16-year-old was armed when he was shot. The man who shot him was robbed before he opened fire, Lt. Chris Halloran said. It’s unclear how many shots he fired.

Those details are expected to emerge from a full investigation, police said. Twenty-four hours after the shooting, the store remained closed as detectives worked to piece together evidence at the crime scene — of both the robbery and the shooting.

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Twenty-four hours after a customer shot a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect at B and H Fast Trips in south Wichita, police were still investigating the crime scene. Chance Swaim

Here’s what police have said so far: Around 2:45 p.m. on Friday, police were called to a shooting at B and H Fast Trips, 2796 S. Seneca, a gas station and convenience store near 26th and Seneca in south Wichita. Four people had “entered the store, pointed handguns at an employee and customers, and demanded money,” Wichita police said in a news release.

The robbers took money and cigarettes, police said.

The 16-year-old was shot by a 42-year-old male customer who pulled his gun and fired multiple shots at the alleged robbers. The other three suspects fled the store, police said.

Wichita police think this robbery is related to an earlier robbery just after noon on Friday at the Family Dollar Store, 936 S. Woodlawn, the release said. Three robbers in that case held up an employee at gunpoint and took money and cigarettes.

This was Wichita’s 44th homicide of 2018 and potentially the ninth stand-your-ground killing of the year, depending on the findings of an ongoing police investigation and a decision by the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office whether the use of force was reasonable.

Before Kansas’ stand-your-ground law passed in 2007, if there was an opportunity to escape violence, or a chance to retreat, a person had to make that the first option before using force.

That’s no longer the case. Kansas is one of many states where citizens have no legal duty to retreat from an attacker in any place where they are lawfully present. A killing is justifiable in Kansas when a person “reasonably believes” that the use of deadly force is “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to that person or a third party.

Under Kansas law, prosecutors can’t file charges against someone in a self-defense killing, which extends to third parties, unless the state can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a person did not act in self-defense or in defense of a third party, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said.

Deciding whether a homicide is justifiable under stand-your-ground laws is “a robust process,” DA spokesman Dan Dillon said. The decision is based, largely, on evidence presented by detectives. Bennett calls it a “two-pronged approach.”

First, prosecutors have to decide if a person believed he or she had to act when using deadly force. Second, prosecutors consider if that belief was reasonable under the facts known to that person at the time of the killing, Bennett said.

Charges may be declined if the evidence is insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted in self-defense, Bennett said.

“In Kansas, we also have statutory self-defense immunity, which means a person is immune from being prosecuted at all if the state cannot establish that the person was not acting in self-defense,” Bennett said.

Halloran said Friday that shooter was at the checkout counter of the when the robbers entered.

“A customer was in line when four individuals came in at gunpoint and demanded money,” he said. “The citizen also got robbed and the citizen pulled a gun and shot at the suspects.”

Several shots were reportedly fired, but it is unknown whether the suspects returned fire, Halloran said.

At least one of the suspects was shot and was still at the crime scene when officers arrived. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition after he was shot once in the head, Halloran said.

The three other suspects — described by police as young males — were last seen running east on 31st Street South. They were not arrested as of Saturday afternoon.

The customer who fired the shots was not injured and is cooperating with police, as are other witnesses, Halloran said. The robbers took the customer’s wallet and cash from the store.

“In our state here in Kansas, we do have open carry and carry concealed,” Halloran said. “So individuals breaking the law may never know when someone in line at a store, in this example, (has a gun). That’s what happened in this case.”

Seneca is a busy street, Halloran said, and it is unknown whether the crime was relevant to the area. The suspects may have picked a business at random, he said.

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Jason Tidd contributed to this story.

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Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and