Crime & Courts

WPD officers rescue teen who nearly drowned in pond after Kohl’s shoplifting attempt

If you witness a crime, here’s what to do

Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity. (Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy)
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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity. (Nicole L. Cvetnic / McClatchy)

Wichita police say a 16-year-old girl allegedly caught shoplifting at the west-side Kohl’s store jumped into a retention pond to escape officers and nearly drowned.

A pair of Wichita police officers dove into the water to rescue her after she disappeared under the water Thursday night. The teen was hospitalized in critical condition after authorities revived her. The officers who dove into the water were also hospitalized after they “became violently sick,” Officer Charley Davidson said at a news briefing Friday morning.

Authorities think the retention pond was full of bacteria that caused the officers’ illness, he said.

The officers were treated at the hospital and released. But the teen remains in critical condition, Davidson said.

Davidson said Wichita police officers went to the Kohl’s store in the 6900 block of West Kellogg at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday after receiving a report about a suspicious character. Security officers at the store told police that a group of people had shoplifted earlier from an east-side retail store then apparently went to the west Kellogg Kohl’s to steal more items, Davidson said.

The security officers told police that a male and the 16-year-old girl tried to leave the store with more than $1,000 worth of clothing that they didn’t pay for, Davidson said. But they dropped the merchandise and ran away after security tried to talk to them.

Davidson said the 16-year-old girl ran through a parking lot then headed into a nearby retention pond when the security officers tried to stop her. She swam out to the middle of the pond, said she was unable to swim and headed back to a shallow area near the shore.

She then swam out toward the middle of the pond a second time and disappeared under its surface.

Two Wichita police officers went in after her and swam to the area where she was last seen. One officer dove down into the water, found the unconscious teen and pulled her to the surface. The officers then took the teen to the shore, where another officer was waiting to perform CPR until medical crews arrived.

Davidson said authorities were able to revive the teen then took her to the hospital for treatment.

Two others involved in the alleged shoplifting — a female and the male — fled, he said.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.
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