Affidavit details case against former WPD captain accused of sharing confidential information

Former WPD Captain Wendell Nicholson faces charges on eight counts of computer crimes.
Former WPD Captain Wendell Nicholson faces charges on eight counts of computer crimes.(KWCH)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 5:39 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A probable cause affidavit released this week details the case against a recently retired Wichita Police Department captain accused of sharing confidential information that includes police files, recorded video and emails. Court documents offer new details in the criminal case which FactFinder 12 first reported.

On May 11, Wendell Nicholson made his first appearance in Sedgwick County District Court. He’s charged with eight felony counts of computer crimes that involve sharing confidential information with others outside of law enforcement.

Charges were filed against Nicholson in March, a day after he retired. The affidavit details the information Nicholson is accused of releasing, including video footage and names of suspects and victims, to people who were not authorized to receive it.

The affidavit said Nicholson’s crimes spanned a period from October 2021 to January 2023.

The document breaks down what led to the charges, beginning on Jan. 17 when a woman employed by a company to provide parking lot security for Walmart showed a screenshot of an email to a WPD detective working for the Exploited and Missing Child Unit (EMCU). The woman showed the detective a message sent to her from a Walmart security guard that showed a screenshot of an email message that contained information about an EMCU case.

WPD detectives assigned to the Gang and Felony Assault Section were investigating an official misconduct case and computer crime. As part of that investigation, they contacted the Walmart security guard shown to be the sender of the email screenshot which contained police information. It was a message he’d forwarded, the affidavit explained.

The affidavit said the security guard said he received a text message from WPD Captain Nicholson a little before 1 a.m. on Jan. 17.

That text message contained an email sent from a Wichita police lieutenant in reference to a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office case and WPD outside assist case.

“The email discusses an active investigation involving a one-month-old child,” the affidavit said. “[The Walmart security guard] didn’t know why [Nicholson] sent him a screenshot of this email other than because he is previous law enforcement.”

The affidavit said the security guard complied when detectives asked for consent to further examine his phone.

This led to the discovery of more information appearing to be shared by Nicholson, including what appeared to be a screen recording of a body-cam-recorded video connected with an officer-involved shooting case.

A forensic investigator noted WPD policy on body-worn cameras, clarifying that “users shall not make copies of any recordings for their personal use and are prohibited from using a recording device (such as a camera phone or secondary video camera) to record media.”

Further citing WPD policy, the affidavit said, “The release of requested digital media through written public records request will be the same statutory exemptions from disclosure as any other department records classified under Kansas State Statute.”

The affidavit said the lead investigator in the case against Nicholson “could not find a section of this policy that would allow a user to record an AXON (bodycam) video and release it to a citizen without property approvals.”

The lead investigator, in looking into items sent to the Walmart security guard from Nicholson, found a private text conversation that also involved two other men, one of which said he became friends with Nicholson and the security guard (formerly in law enforcement) because their children played on the same basketball team in the early 2010s. The man said he was never in law enforcement and didn’t know it was wrong to receive the messages (that included case information), according to the affidavit.

“[The man] said he has been receiving messages like the screenshot of the email from [Nicholson] in the group chat for years.”

The affidavit goes on to lay out the dates, times and details of screenshotted emails investigators say Nicholson shared, as well as other information that included case reviews and updates.

The affidavit cites a Security Awareness Acknowledgement form Nicholson signed in March 2018, advising that “misuse or disclosure of the Criminal Justice Information and other sensitive information may result in disciplinary action including immediate dismissal, civil and criminal penalties.”

The affidavit concludes with information that the lead investigator in the case found Nicholson was disciplined on Dec. 29, 2022 “for a previous incident where he disseminated Criminal History Records to an individual that was not authorized to receive such information.”