During the Wichita City Council’s debate over the fate of three historic downtown buildings, the cousin of the man killed by Wichita police on Jan. 3 asked the council about the secrecy surrounding the case.
Samantha Talamantez, John Paul Quintero’s cousin, along with a handful of other protesters, attended the meeting.
“I have a question for you,” Talamantez said to Mayor Carl Brewer. “I would like to know who is investigating the death of John Paul Quintero, and why has there been so much secrecy on the death of John Paul Quintero.”
This is the second recent protest held by family and supporters of Quintero. Last week, they attended the 10 a.m. police news briefing at City Hall, when they were asked to leave by police.
Quintero was shot by police on Jan. 3 after 911 dispatchers received a call of a disturbance involving a knife at an address on North Oliver.
When officers arrived, Quintero, 23, was “belligerent” and reaching for his waistband, police have said. A police officer shot Quintero twice in the midsection with a rifle. He later died in the hospital.
No knife was found on Quintero, according to police.
Quintero’s family says that police escalated the situation.
Wichita police say they are working to be more transparent in police shootings, but Talamantez says the family’s questions about the case have remained unanswered, including the name of the officer who shot Quintero, witness statements and other information from the heavily redacted public incident report released by the city.
About four and a half pages of the five-page report are redacted. Such reports typically detail what happened in an incident and include information from witnesses and officers involved.
At the meeting, Brewer asked interim city attorney Sharon Dickgrafe to clarify the state of the investigation.
“Currently, the matter is being investigated by the district attorney’s office, and once they make a decision on that, they will issue an opinion on their findings,” Dickgrafe said.
When asked why the name of the officer involved in the shooting had not been released, Dickgrafe said the Kansas Open Records Act excludes information on open criminal investigations and that the police department’s policy is to not release the names.
Talamantez then questioned why Brewer would allow the police to have that policy and what the department’s policy is on the use of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, which may have been the type of gun used on Quintero.
“There are a lot of policies that we’re not aware of that exist. ... That’s not our responsibility to know the policy. Our responsibility is to make sure the citizens of Wichita are safe,” Brewer said.
Brewer recommended Talamantez speak with the district attorney’s office to get the status of the investigation.
“Who polices the police? We understand this isn’t going to bring him back, but someone needs to be accountable,” Talamantez said in an interview after the council meeting.
Council member Jeff Blubaugh said the family has “a voice that needs to be heard” but that it needs to be handled appropriately.
“Procedurally, they can reach out to any of us any time or use the appropriate means,” Blubaugh said. “They can put themselves on the public agenda and speak any time during the meeting.”
Council member Jeff Longwell agreed.
“The only thing that frustrates me is that everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard,” Longwell said. “But when we have a business meeting with scheduled items, it’s a little unfair to all of the folks that are there for any particular item to have it basically hijacked. They’ve never reached out to me or to my knowledge the mayor or anybody else to say we have some real concerns.”
Talamantez said the family is considering legal action over Quintero’s death and is planning additional protests.
“We’re just not going to let it go,” she said.