WICHITA, Kan. — The Wichita police chief discussed an officer-involved shooting that left a man who was armed with a knife dead.
On July 4, two Wichita police officers responded to the report of a suicidal person at a home in the 7800 block of East Clay. When officers arrived, family members said 26-year-old Icarus Randolph was acting distraught and out of control.
That's when police say Randolph came out of the house and walked aggressively, straight toward one of the officers. That officer used his Taser, but it did not stop him. When the officer noticed Randolph had a knife in his hand, he pulled his service weapon and shot him in the chest.
Randolph died a short time later.
Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams addressed the shooting during a media briefing Monday morning.
"When it comes to using deadly force, that is probably one of the hardest decisions that an officer has to make in their career." Williams said. "Because that is a decision that will continue to be looked at throughout their career, and that is one that they do not take lightly."
A similar situation happened in April, where Wichita police officers shot and killed 30-year-old David M. Zehring following a police chase.
After stop sticks were used to flatten a tire, Zehring stopped his car near Maple and Mount Carmel. He than got out of his car, pulled out and opened a folding knife, then started walking toward a Wichita officer. A Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy used his Taser on Zehring, but in that case, it was also ineffective. The Wichita police officer then shot Zehring.
In each of those situations, Chief Williams said, it evolved within seconds and the officers had to assess and make a decision. In both shootings, the suspects were six to eight feet away from the officer.
Chief Williams said that one concern or criticism they often hear from the public asks why officers don't shoot suspects in the arm or leg, or use some kind of other weapon.
"We do not train our officers to shoot somebody in the leg or the arm. That is something you see on television. That is something you see in movies," Williams said. "In reality, we train to stop the threat."
Police officers are trained to shoot a suspect in the upper body or center mass in order to stop the threat. Chief Williams said he can't think of any other law enforcement agency or military branch that trains their personnel to shoot someone in the arm or leg.
Chief Williams said that a knife is always a lethal weapon. From 2009 to 2013 in Wichita, a knife or other object with a cutting edge was used in 20 homicides. Nine of those were in 2011. The last time a law enforcement officer in Sedgwick County was killed by a knife was Sedgwick County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Snyder in 1997.
In the most recent officer-involved shooting, police said Randolph was carrying a hunting or combat-style knife with a four to five-inch blade.
"There is no non-lethal weapon available that is 100% effective. There is none." Williams said. "Whether it's Tasers, a baton, mace or any other things that we need to use."
For example, he said Wichita police officers deployed a Taser 403 times in 2011. It was effective 283 times, or 70 percent in stopping the threat. So far this year, a Taser has been used 141 times and has been effective 76 times, or 54% of the time.
Williams said a Taser's lack of effectiveness can be attributed to many factors, such as if a suspect has used alcohol or drugs, is wearing heavy clothing or where the weapon's probes hit the body. He's asked the training academy to look at cases where they were ineffective, and what can be changed.
The most recent shooting is being investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney's Office. Both officers involved, one a 15-year veteran and the other 17-year officer, have been placed on administrative leave.
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