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Sedgwick County DA: No charges in death of woman killed in deputy-involved shooting

On Thursday (5/13/21), the Sedgwick County district attorney said no criminal charges would be...
On Thursday (5/13/21), the Sedgwick County district attorney said no criminal charges would be filed against a sheriff's deputy who shot and killed 51-year-old Debra Arbuckle.(Kansas Department of Corrections)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 3:07 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday that no criminal charges will be filed against a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed Debra Arbuckle, 51 of Andover, on December 30. 2019.

The incident started when a Wichita police officer spotted a car with a license plate that belonged to another vehicle. The officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but Arbuckle would not stop and they decided not to chase her. A few minutes later, a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy spotted Arbuckle’s car and a chase started. It spanned Sedgwick and Butler counties and involved both the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

Spike strips and tactical vehicle intervention were used to end the chase. Bennett said Arbuckle’s Volkswagen came to a rest on the south curb of Mt. Vernon just west of Webb Road.

According to the investigation, as officers approached the vehicle, they heard the engine “rev” and saw the car reverse. One of three deputies on the scene fired his weapon “to stop what he perceived to be a threat of bodily injury to himself and his fellow deputies.”

“To overcome self-defense immunity, the question under Kansas criminal law is not whether Deputy 3 had to use deadly force, or whether he could have chosen other, less deadly options. The analysis required by Kansas law is whether evidence exists to establish (1) that the deputy did not honestly believe the use of force was necessary or (2) a reasonable person would not believe the use of force was necessary under the circumstances. Under the circumstances established by the investigation, Deputy 3 is immune from prosecution under Kansas law,” said Bennett in his release.

“Under Kansas law and the facts of the case, I conclude no criminal charges will be filed against Deputy 3,” he concluded.

Last September, Arbuckle’s family filed a civil lawsuit stating that Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy Kaleb Dailey used excessive deadly force in the death of their mother. The family called for Dailey to be fired, lose his law-enforcement certification, and for criminal charges to be filed.

The family’s attorney, Michael Kuckleman, issued the following statement regarding the announcement that no charges would be filed:

“We’re certainly disappointed that Deputy Kaleb Dailey isn’t facing a homicide charge in the death of Debra Arbuckle. We wholeheartedly disagree with today’s decision.

The deputy fired six shots into the passenger door and window. No other officer on the scene fired a single shot. That’s because Ms. Arbuckle wasn’t a threat to them. Her front wheel didn’t even have a tire on it. They rammed her car, ran it off the road, and they surrounded it with their cars. The officers weren’t in danger. In fact, the Wichita Police Department had already called off pursuit.

Eluding an officer doesn’t warrant deadly force.

The timing of this announcement caught us by surprise. We just deposed Deputy Dailey last week in the civil case, and the transcript isn’t available yet. We think the transcript should have been considered in the decision whether or not to charge Deputy Dailey. Perhaps it would have made a difference in the decision?

It’s important to bear in mind that the only reason they were pursuing Debra Arbuckle was that she had the wrong license plate on her vehicle. Never should a traffic violation involving a license plate escalate to using deadly force.”

Bennett said he could not comment on the civil case.

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