Crime & Courts

Police chief vows to ‘double down’ after kids fall victim to weekend shootings

Two Wichita children — an infant and a young girl — were victims of separate shootings over the weekend in Wichita.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Monday that the spate of gunfire over the past few days, which also involved adult victims and an unrelated fight at a south-side bar, represented “an uptick in our shootings” which raises concern.

But he said compared to the same time last year, shootings are down 23% overall.

From 2014 to 2018 violent crime in Wichita rose steadily, pushing rates to around three times the national and state averages. Shootings nearly doubled during that same time, to almost three a week.

“While any shooting is too many, it is down over last year. And we are going to ensure that those numbers continue to go down,” he said.

Efforts to do so will include paying staff overtime to carry out additional targeted enforcement of offenders accused of gun crimes, Ramsay said Monday morning during a news briefing. Last month, police and federal law enforcement announced the end of a two-month initiative called Operation Triple Beam that resulted in the arrest of 930 alleged offenders, many on outstanding warrants.

The city saw a 40% year-over-year drop in shootings while the initiative was under way in June and July.

But many of the offenders jailed during the summer enforcement — one of several avenues police are exploring to curb the violence — bonded out quickly and are back in the community.

“In these cases, we know many of those that are involved. We know where they live. We’ve been dealing with them. They’ve been involved in other crimes and we’re just not going to tolerate it,” Ramsay said.

“When we see children get hurt that causes everybody a concern, and we are going to double down on our efforts to make sure these things do not continue.”

The violence over the weekend started Saturday in the 700 block of East Bayley, where a 28-year-old man was shot in front of his home. Wichita police Lt. Chad Beard said bullets also hit the man’s home while a woman and a newborn baby were inside.

Neither the woman nor the baby were harmed, but the man had a gunshot wound that medical personnel treated at the scene, near Lincoln and Washington. Police arrested and jailed two men — 20-year-old Hunter Peach and 24-year-old Ricky Elsen Jr. — on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and other crimes early Sunday, records show.

Later, at around 1 a.m. Sunday, two men in their 20s and a 4-year-old girl were injured when someone fired multiple rounds into a home in the 1500 block of North Floberta, near 13th and Oliver. Police think that gunfire may be connected to a gang dispute, Beard said.

The 4-year-old girl was hit in her upper torso. A police officer took her to the hospital in a patrol car instead of waiting for an ambulance Sunday morning. She remained in the hospital Monday in what Beard described as stable condition and is expected to survive.

Whoever is responsible for that shooting remained at large Monday. Police ask anyone with information about it to call Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111 or the See Something Say Something hotline at 316-519-2282.

The weekend’s third shooting, outside of Bourbon Street Sports Bar and Grill at 3863 S. Seneca, happened after a fight broke out around closing time Sunday morning. Two men — ages 30 and 40 — were hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the foot and torso, and a third, 52-year-old Felipe Barrientos II, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated battery. No children were involved.

None of the shootings were random, police said Monday.

“Anybody getting shot is obviously a priority to the Wichita Police Department. Obviously it takes us up another level when a small child is involved,” Beard said. “They are the innocents. … we want to protect them.”

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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.