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Affidavit explains grounds for charges against former Herington police chief, assistant chief

(KWCH)
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 12:04 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As a now former Herington police chief and the city’s assistant chief face misdemeanor charges, accused of trespassing and damaging property, an affidavit from Dickinson County District Court lays out the grounds for the charges.

Topeka station WIBW reported that on Sept. 10, Herington Police Chief John Matula, 36, resigned following a court summons served to him and Assistant Police Chief Curtis Tyra, 43. Last week, Matula was ordered to appear in Dickinson County District Court for alleged criminal damage to property and criminal trespass. Tyra was ordered to appear in court for alleged criminal trespass.

On June 15, a Kansas Bureau of Investigation special agent took a report that on May 18, Matula and Tyra had forcefully entered a Herington residence without a search warrant. The special agent learned the residence had been condemned in March after the Herington Police Department had served a search warrant there.

The homeowner who reported the information to the agent said she was able to go to the residence for the purpose of working on the house and cleaning it but wasn’t allowed to sleep there. The homeowner said she went to the residence on May 18 and noticed a HPD patrol vehicle parked in the alley behind her home. She reported noticing the back door of her residence had been forced open and the dead bolt, which normally secures it, was broken, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said the women entered the home through a broken door and encountered HPD Chief Matula inside. She reported that Matula told her to leave, or she would be arrested for trespassing.

“[The homeowner] returned later on May 18 with her boyfriend and found that the house appeared to have been searched as many items were out of place,” the affidavit said.

Aside from damage to the back door, the homeowner reported finding a camera which had been mounted on the corner of the house, laying broken in the street. The KBI special agent was provided video surveillance that showed Chief Matula and Assistant Chief Tyra at the residence a little before 10 a.m. on May 18. The affidavit said there is a timestamp on the footage.

“Tyra is seen walking onto the porch and disappears for a few seconds. A noise can be heard and [the homeowner] said that was when she believes he ripped down that camera and broke it,” the affidavit said. “Tyra then appeared back into view of the functional camera and removed it from where it was mounted next to the front door and set it down.”

On June 22, the special agent interviewed Herington’s fire chief who stated his additional duties include City Health Officer and that he was formerly the code enforcement officer until the city hired someone new to fill that role The fire chief said he first condemned the residence in question on March 10 and that the owner was provided notice and a copy of his inspection report detailing the reason for condemnation.

The fire chief said on May 18, he asked Chief Matula to go to the condemned home “to ensure that no one would be there while he and (the new code enforcement officer) posted new condemnation signage, the affidavit said. The fire chief said he had concerns about going to the home because he suspected drug dealing there and that the condemned signage “had been taken down several times.”

The fire chief said when he and the code enforcement officer arrived at the home, Matula and Tyra were there and had forced entry into the house. The chief and assistant chief reported no one was inside the home but mentioned that [the homeowner] had shown up while they were inside.

The fire chief said he did not have a search warrant to enter the home and that the homeowner wasn’t contacted about entry into the residence until after HPD officers had already forced entry and cleared the house, the affidavit said.

On June 25, the KBI special agent met with the homeowner and was shown damage to the back door of the home. The agent noted that the dead bolt no longer worked and there was a large split in the center of the door. The affidavit said the agent estimated the damage to be about $100 and that the homeowner couldn’t find the camera she believed Tyra had broken.

On June 30, the special agent interviewed Chief Matula who stated on May 18, he was asked by the city’s fire chief to enter the home and “ensure no one was there and it would be safe for him to repost condemned signs and make sure no one was living there,” the affidavit said.

“Matula also added that the city’s public health office had the authority to enter premises to ensure no one is living there,” the affidavit said. “Matula stated there were public safety concerns [the fire chief] had about going to the residence and mentioned the fact that the search warrant served there on March l0th, 2021 involved the seizure of gun and narcotics.”

The affidavit said Matula told the agent that he and Tyra went to the home and knocked on the door several times and that they noticed lights on inside the home, “which indicated to him that someone was inside.”

“Matula said they did not get an answer at the back door, and he forced it open by kicking it,” the affidavit said. “Matula said he and Tyra entered the residence and searched it for persons inside. Matual said no one was found inside, however [the homeowner] did show up while they were inside, and he told her to leave or else she would be arrested for trespassing.”

The special agent also interviewed Tyra who said Matula kicked in the back door and they both made entry into the home and during a search, they found no one inside.

“After clearing the residence, Tyra said he and Matula stood outside and waited for [the fire chief and code enforcement officer] to arrive,” the affidavit said. “Tyra stated while waiting, [he] grabbed a camera on the front porch to see if it would move and when he did, it came off. Tyra said he set the camera down on a bench on the front porch. Tyra denied taking down any other cameras that day.”

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