Politics & Government

Suspect in tax office shooting was buzzed into waiting area, state says

Wichita man charged with attempted first-degree murder in shooting

Ricky Wirths, the man arrested in Tuesday's shooting of a tax agent, was charged with attempted first-degree murder Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)
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Ricky Wirths, the man arrested in Tuesday's shooting of a tax agent, was charged with attempted first-degree murder Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

The suspect in the shooting of a tax agent last week was buzzed into a Kansas Department of Revenue building where the shooting took place, the agency’s leader said.

Revenue Secretary Sam Williams also told lawmakers on Tuesday that all of the agency’s security procedures were complied with during the incident.

The Wichita Police Department offers an update into the shooting of a state employee on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (Nichole Manna/The Wichita Eagle)

Suspect Ricky Wirths was buzzed into a waiting area inside the taxation side of Twin Lakes tax office at 21st and Amidon, Williams said. Individuals must then go through another door to get to the area where employees work.

Williams said that Wirths came up to what he called a carrell in the waiting area where customers can meet with employees. That’s where Wirths spoke to tax agent Cortney Holloway.

“You go into the waiting area and there’s carrells where the tax officers will come out and meet with the individual. He came into the area, came to the carrell where he would meet with the officer, asked to speak to him and then he came around then on his side, the secure side, and they had a conversation which led to him being shot,” Williams said.

A lawmaker asked if there was bulletproof glass. Williams said there wasn’t.

The Kansas Department of Revenue was not scheduled to address the Legislature’s state building committee. But Williams appeared in the afternoon after a lawmaker raised questions in the morning over the move of an agency office in Topeka.

Rep. John Alcala, D-Topeka, asked about the presence of security cameras at a Department of Revenue facility in Topeka. Williams said none of the revenue facilities have monitored security cameras. He did not specifically say whether the Twin Lakes office has security cameras.

Under questioning, Williams said he did not know how long security camera footage is kept.

“You as the director don’t know what happens to those or what the timeframe is?” Alcala said.

Williams responded: “I’ve been in this position for nine months, OK? There’s probably lots of things I don’t know, and I’ll be the first one to say that. But in light of the experience we’ve had in the last week, there are things coming to my attention now that will be addressed.”

After speaking, Williams left the room quickly.

Wirths has been charged with attempted first-degree murder. The criminal complaint against him says he fired a .45-caliber handgun. Wirths, 51, owes nearly $400,000 in taxes.

“Everything was complied with completely per our existing procedures and the individual who came through had a gun hidden, took the gun out and shot Cortney Holloway,” Williams said.

“Everything that happened was in compliance with procedures we now have in place.”

In the wake of the shooting, Williams has said the department is reviewing its security procedures.

The agency should look at armed guards and metal detectors for the office, said Robert Choromanski, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. The union represents state workers.

Choromanski said he recently visited the Kansas Department of Revenue’s office in Topeka. While there were no metal detectors, police were on-duty, he said.

He questioned the effectiveness of the procedures in place at the Twin Lakes office.

“Even if all the security procedures were followed as he says, a state employee got shot and almost murdered,” Choromanski said. “So what kind of security is it when you can just buzz in and no one’s patting you down, no one’s screening you and you can carry your weapon in there and potentially harm somebody?”

The tax office had been located in a secured state office building until about three years ago when it was moved as part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s effort to privatize office space.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman

Timeline of Twin Lakes tax office shooting

Ricky Wirths has been charged with attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of tax agent Cortney Holloway at the Twin Lakes tax office last week. Here’s a timeline of what’s happened, assembled from interviews, police and official statements.

June 1 – The Kansas Department of Revenue issues two tax warrants for Ricky Wirths. Combined, the warrants show Wirths owes nearly $400,000 in taxes.

About noon on Tuesday, Sept. 19 – Tax authorities begin seizing Wirths’ assets. Tax agent Cortney Holloway is involved in the seizure.

About 2:40 p.m. – Wirths goes to the Twin Lakes tax office at 21st and Amidon. He is buzzed into a waiting area and hiding a gun, according to Kansas Revenue Secretary Sam Williams.

Holloway has a conversation with Wirths. At some point, Wirth begins shooting a .45-caliber handgun, according to police.

2:45 p.m. – The first 911 calls are made about the shooting.

About 3:10 p.m. – Police arrest Wirths during a vehicle stop down the block from his home in the 900 block of West 35th Street North.

6:36 p.m. – Gov. Sam Brownback identifies Holloway as the shooting victim.

8 p.m. – Wirths is booked into the Sedgwick County Jail.

Tuesday evening – Holloway is upgraded from critical to serious condition.

Thursday, Sept. 21 – Wirths is charged with attempted first-degree murder. His bond is raised $500,000.

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