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WPD Officer Found Not Guilty Of Vehicular Homicide

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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Thursday April 7, 2011

UPDATE

A Wichita police officer is found not guilty of vehicular homicide. The officer, Garrett Shaddix, was responding to a call when he was involved in a deadly accident, well over a year ago. The case finally came to an end Thursday.

It was a very emotional morning as the verdict was announced to a packed courtroom. There were tears of joy on one side of the courtroom, and anger on the other.

One person stormed out immediately after the verdict was read, saying "That's bull---."

It was December 2009 when Christopher Perkins died in the accident involving Shaddix. Now, Perkins' loved ones say jurors made the wrong decision.

"I'm angry because it is my son, and it didn't have to happen. You know, not like that," said Perkins' mother, Sharon Haymer.

Wichita police officer Garrett Shaddix was responding to a 'shots fired' call, apparently driving at least 20 mph over the speed limit, when he crashed into Perkins' car. He wasn't using his emergency lights or siren per police department policy. After days of testimony jurors ruled his actions weren't a crime.

"We are obviously very pleased with the verdict. I know Garrett's relieved. It's been a very long haul for him," said Defense Attorney Stephen Ariagno.

But not everyone is pleased. Some say, if Shaddix wasn't a police officer, the verdict would be different.

"[If] Anybody else [were] to go out there and hit someone and kill them, they would have already been in prison," said Haymer.

"We trust in the jury, in this case, as we do in any case," said Prosecutor Aaron Breitenbach.

Even in the deeply divided courtroom Thursday, there was one thing both sides agreed on.

"No one wants this to happen, nobody. And it's a tragedy," said Ariagno.

It was a tragedy that left parents without a son, and a son without a father. Now that it's all over, Christopher Perkins' mother says she'll still continue to miss everything about him.

"Everything," said Haymer, "You know, he was my son."

Vehicular homicide is a misdemeanor that could carry up to a year jail time. With Thursday's 'not guilty' verdict, Shaddix is acquitted of the charges. Now, he'll return to work as a Wichita police officer.

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A Sedgwick County jury has found a Wichita Police officer not guilty of vehicular homicide.

Officer Garrett Shaddix was responding to the report of a disturbance when his patrol car collided with a car driven by Christopher Perkins in December, 2009. Perkins died from his injuries.

Testimony indicated that Shaddix was driving between 65-73 miles-per-hour on Hydraulic when Perkins turned in front of him at the intersection of Hydraulic and El Monte. The speed limit in the area is 40 miles per hour.

A deputy police chief testified that Shaddix was traveling at an unreasonable speed when he collided with Perkins' car.

Trooper Ryan Tauer testified that Shaddix told him he was using what are known as the cruise lights on his emergency light bar. The cruise lights are two solid red and blue lights on each end of the overhead light bar that are not typically used when the patrol car is in motion.

Per department policy, officers are not allowed to drive with their red lights and siren for the type of call Shaddix was responding to, even though it is considered in a group of the highest priority of calls.

Shaddix is still employed by the Wichita Police Department. The city has previously settled a civil matter with the family of Christopher Perkins for the amount of $300,000.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Around 4PM Wednesday, the jury was handed Officer Garrett Shaddix's case. The six member jury will decide if Shaddix is guilty or not guilty of vehicular homicide following the collision that killed 30-year-old Christopher Perkins.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A deputy police chief testified late Tuesday that Officer Garrett Shaddix was traveling at an unreasonable speed when he collided with a car driven by Christopher Perkins in December, 2009.

Shaddix was responding to the report of a disturbance with shots fired in South Wichita. As he drove south on Hydraulic, Perkins turned left in front of him.

"Our policy is all about reasonableness," Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said. "At some point, you have to be able to justify driving that fast and if you're doing 20-30 miles-per-hour over, it becomes hard to justify it."

A highway patrol trooper was the first witness called in the vehicular homicide trial of a Wichita Police Officer Tuesday. Officer Garrett Shaddix faces the misdemeanor charge.

Testimony indicated that Shaddix was driving between 65-73 miles-per-hour on Hydraulic when Perkins turned in front of him at the intersection of Hydraulic and El Monte.

Trooper Ryan Tauer testified that Shaddix told him he was using what are known as the cruise lights on his emergency light bar. The cruise lights are two solid red and blue lights on each end of the overhead light bar that are not typically used when the patrol car is in motion.

The jury was allowed to leave the courtroom to view a demonstration of the cruise lights as opposed to the full flashing emergency mode.

Tauer said he also initially responded to the accident call without using his emergency lights and siren, even though he was speeding. However, once he heard serious injuries were involved, he sped up even faster and turned on his full emergency equipment "for the protection of myself and any motorists or pedestrians."

The trial is expected to last 2-3 days. Shaddix is still employed by the Wichita Police Department. The city has previously settled a civil matter with the family of Christopher Perkins for the amount of $300,000.

Per department policy, officers are not allowed to drive with their red lights and siren for the type of call Shaddix was responding to, even though it is considered in a group of the highest priority of calls.

The prosecution still has several witnesses to call before the defense will have a chance to call their own witnesses later this week.


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