Police swat shooting

Texts sent by 12 Wichita law enforcement officers drew considerable attention for racist comments and images, but beyond racists, many of the texts were “disturbing and unacceptable,” according to members of the city’s Citizen’s Review Board.

Along with racist texts, the thread included a disturbing series of texts where the SWAT officers congratulated each other for “permanent de-escalation” i.e. killing people who “needed it.”

With last week’s “permanent de-escalation” of yet another Wichita citizen by members of Wichita’s SWAT, the community should question whether any of the three WPD officers in the de-escalation thread of texts, were involved in this shooting. To date, of the three WPD officers involved in the text, one has resigned and the other two are still active members of the SWAT team.

Following initial review by Wichita Police top administrators, discipline of the officers was recommended but overturned by the City’s Human Resources Director. A review by the Wichita Citizens Review Board found the officer’s actions rose to the level of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, meriting suspension or more significant sanctions.

One of the remaining two officers in the case may have been the officers that permanently deescalated Gregorio Banuelos, 39, during a standoff with police in West Wichita.

Officers responded to a call of shots being fired at a house in west Wichita. When they arrived they found a woman and a child in the front yard and saw a man go into the house with a gun another remaining person inside the house exited.

After a 10-hour standoff, the officer entered the home, and reportedly exchanged gunfire with Banuelos. As the officers retreated, WPD Capt. Jason Stephens said Banuelos followed them and “aggressively advanced on the officers.”

In a split-second decision, “two officers positioned outside saw this, believed he was moving towards those officers armed with a gun, and fired in defense of those officers,” Stephens said.

While WPD was quick to justify the shooting, it was this need to make split-second decisions that concerned members of the Citizen’s Review Board in their report.

They [SWAT team members] can be faced with life and death decisions at a moment’s notice. Judgment is critically important. Bias, whether directly demonstrated or implicit, can impair performance and must be addressed,” wrote the Citizens Review Board in their report.

The board was also concerned by the officer’s “disrespect for efforts by the Department to promote de-escalation as a policy and to reduce the use of force.”

In the texts, the three officers rebuff the department’s deescalation policy,

“For the record, you three are the “Ultimate De-Escalators ” on the team … each of you not only deescalated a SWAT call or soon-to-be a SWAT call but permanently deescalated people who needed permanent de-escalation … and I’m proud of you guys. I know that isn’t PC to say and would be complained about on the WhatsApp, but that doesn’t make it less true,” wrote a Sedgwick County sergeant.

Two of the WPD officers reply with “liked” and “loved” and went on to congratulate the sergeant for also de-escalating “some people who needed it.”

The message from all four officers is:

  • some people deserve to be shot dead by law enforcement officers

  • Instead of leaving the decision of the persons right to live or die to the courts, killing them on the spot is something to be proud of, and

  • That they have in the past taken decisions into their own hands to “permanently-deescalated” or kill individuals they felt deserved it.

While the city has promised a thorough and independent review of WPD’s culture and how it supports such inappropriate text and belief systems, citizen’s lives remain at stake, with officers who clearly believe it’s okay to “permanently deescalate” or kill citizens, armed, ready and authorized to kill. This week, maybe, that’s exactly what one of them did, AGAIN!   

 

Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...