A Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy appears to have fired in self-defense after a possibly impaired 18-year-old driver pointed a gun out of the car window during a traffic stop early Thursday, Sheriff Jeff Easter said.
The incident ended with the driver fleeing, crashing into a house and later dying, Easter said. The Pontiac in question was registered to the driver, Caleb James Douglas of Wichita, Easter said.
The driver drove about four blocks north, from the car stop in the 1100 block of Tyler Road, after the deputy fired at least 16 shots as the car was stopped and pulling away, Easter said.
Asked about the number of rounds fired by the deputy, Easter said: “We’re trained to stop the threat.”
It appears that one round was fired from inside the car into the roof, he said.
The car crashed into a house in the 1500 block of North Tyler Road, and Douglas was taken to a hospital, where he died, Easter said.
An autopsy was underway Thursday. Although the cause of death remains under investigation, it appears that a bullet fragment taken from Douglas’ head was consistent with a 9mm bullet – the same caliber fired by the deputy, Easter said. The gun that Douglas pointed had a different caliber.
It’s not clear whether the deputy’s gunfire hit Douglas other times, Easter said.
Douglas had just graduated from Goddard Academy, an alternative high school, in May, Goddard public schools spokesman Dane Baxa said.
The deputy’s dash cam recorded the incident. The sheriff provided grainy still photos taken from the video – showing what Easter said was Douglas pointing a gun out of the car and the deputy retreating.
Easter said he is not releasing the video from the dash cam because the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t want it provided while the investigation is proceeding.
When video has been provided in some officer shootings elsewhere, that has resulted from racial tension, Easter said. But he said that situation doesn’t exist in this shooting because both the deputy and Douglas are white.
The 32-year-old deputy was not injured. He has been with the department for 14 months and worked in law enforcement for seven years before that, Easter said.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting the Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.
Driver pointed gun
The sheriff gave this account:
At 1:09 a.m., the deputy began to follow a possibly impaired driver and activated his dash cam. The driver crossed the center line several times and straddled lanes.
At 1:10 a.m., the deputy pulled the car over. At 1:11, he asked the driver to step outside. Seconds later, the driver pointed a handgun at the deputy’s face.
The deputy rapidly moved away from the car as “the driver stuck the gun out of the window with both hands placed on the handgun and pointed it at the deputy,” the Sheriff’s Office said in written account given to the media.
At 1:11 and 39 seconds, the deputy fired at the driver, it says, and the driver drove away north on Tyler Road as the deputy called for help.
About two minutes later, the fleeing car was found four blocks to the north, where it struck the house. The car engine caught fire.
The driver was found to be wounded and was taken with critical injuries to a hospital, where he later died, the account says.
Loaded handgun found
Easter said that shootings “escalate quickly,” noting that only a minute elapsed from the time the deputy got out of his car until he fired the first shot.
No more than 10 seconds passed from the time the driver pointed the gun at the deputy until the deputy fired shots in defense, Easter said.
When the crime scene was investigated, a loaded handgun was found in the car, the account says.
The crash scene is at the northwest corner of Tyler and Nantucket.
There, a 5-foot-long section of curb lay shattered Thursday. Beyond that, tire tracks angled to the northwest through a chain-link fence in a side yard of one duplex, through a back fence and into the corner of another duplex, where the siding was smashed and the underlying structure exposed.
Kendyl Anderson lives in the unit next to the one where the car hit. She said the impact “felt like an earthquake” and as if something had struck the roof hard.
The force knocked a large painting off the basement wall.
Benjamin Turner, who also lives near the crash scene, gave this account of the incident:
It looked like a black four-door sedan hit the house and that the car caught fire because there was a large cloud of smoke.
An officer or officers yelled to the man inside: “Step out of the vehicle! Get out of the car!”
When they apparently realized the car was on fire, officers “yanked him out.”