WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Sedgwick County district attorney has concluded his investigation of an officer fatally shooting a man in June 2021.
On June 19, 2021, a Wichita Police Department (WPD) officer shot and killed 28-year-old Tyler Hodge after Hodge allegedly shot and critically wounded another WPD officer. Police said officers had gone to a home in the 500 block of W. Carlyle for a welfare check after a domestic dispute.
District Attorney Marc Bennett said Hodge fired two shots at officers who were responding to the check the welfare call. Those officers backed away and were not injured. As more officers arrived, Bennett said Hodge continued to fire his rifle toward officers.
Officer Kyle Mellard was hit three times. It took him months of surgeries and treatment to recover. He was able to return to the WPD on light duty the next May and then to patrol in late 2022.
Other officers continued to look for Hodge. Bennett said an officer saw Hodge pointing a rifle at other officers. That officer fired one shot that killed Hodge.
Bennett said he will not charge the officer for using deadly force. He cited Kansas’ “stand your ground” law, saying that one who acts in defense of himself or to protect a third party is immune from prosecution.
At 10:18 p.m. that day, two officers were sent to check the welfare of a person on West Carlyle. When the officers arrived, a woman at the home was crying and told them she argued with her boyfriend.
During interviews at the scene and later at the police department, the woman said she and Hodge had been in an on-and-off relationship for approximately five years. She told them they argued that night over how he treated her child.
While the woman and Hodge had been arguing, the woman’s child called a grandmother, who called 911.
The woman told officers that Hodge went into his room in the house. She thought she heard the sound of a gun being loaded or unloaded in Hodge’s room. She said she heard him making suicidal statements, then heard the backdoor open and close.
She told them she believed the boyfriend had left, but she had not seen him leave.
The district attorney said the two officers who were sent to the home asked the woman if they could go inside and check the home to see if Hodge was still there. She gave them permission.
“While they were inside, they saw evidence of a firearm in a bedroom,” Bennett said. “He was not in the house. They asked her, ‘Does he have a gun?’ She indicated that he had what she called an AR-style gun.”
The officers went into the garage and saw that the door from the garage to the backyard was open. They saw a shed in the backyard. The officers opened the shed door and saw Hodge sitting inside, holding a gun. The butt of the gun was resting on the floor.
Bennett said the officers asked Hodge to put the gun down, and he refused. He said the interaction was captured on the officers’ body cameras.
“Then, moments later, (Hodge) stood and began to shoot, shot twice at the officers who retreated,” the district attorney said.
Bennett said the officers did not return fire. They radioed in that shots had been fired, and more officers started to head toward the area.
“The problem they had was Mr. Hodge was behind several houses and … they couldn’t find, couldn’t see his location,” Bennett said.
He said Officer Mellard arrived and was running down the street.
“This male responding officer running down the street was shot by Mr. Hodge three times,” Bennett said. “He returned fire, the officer did, but was struck significantly enough that he was rendered, I believe, basically unconscious.”
After Mellard was shot, an “officer down” call went out at 10:41:43 p.m. to area law enforcement, and more officers arrived.
Bennett said as Hodge continued firing shots, a police sergeant ran to Mellard, who was in the street. The sergeant saw that Mellard was still alive and dragged him to a safer location.
A sheriff’s office deputy went to help while another officer provided cover fire. The sergeant and the deputy were able to get Mellard into a patrol vehicle around 10:46 p.m. and drove him to the hospital.
Bennett said the officers who remained at the scene stayed hidden because Hodge continued to fire his weapon.
Around 10:59 p.m., an officer saw a flashlight move through the air. Benett said the theory is that one of the first officers to arrive lost their flashlight while fleeing from the gunfire. He said it appeared that Hodge threw the officer’s flashlight.
“A flashlight was thrown and drew the attention of this officer … who looked up and sees Mr. Hodge now stepping from behind cover with the rifle aimed up toward them, and the officer fired a single shot,” Bennett said.
Hodge fell to the ground.
Bennett said officers tried to save Hodge’s life. Then EMS also tried. EMS pronounced him deceased at 11:12 p.m.
The shooting investigation included gathering evidence at the scene, the police body cameras, and interviews with witnesses and officers.
The woman who had been in a relationship with Hodge told officers that he had been getting treatment for depression. She also said he had made suicidal statements in the past.
Investigators found Hodge’s two guns — a Core AR-15 5.56 rifle and a Beretta PX4 Storm 9 mm handgun. They say Hodge left the handgun in the shed.
They said three officers fired weapons. Mellard fired a Glock 17 Gen4 9 mm handgun. The officer who shot Hodge and the officer who provided cover while other officers rescued Mellard used Colt M4 Carbine 5.56 police rifles.
In all, the district attorney believes police fired 11 times while Hodge fired at least 12 times.
An autopsy showed that Hodge died from being shot in the “trunk.” The toxicology report showed no alcohol or drugs in his system.
District Attorney’s opinion
After seeing the officers’ body cameras, hearing the witness testimony, and analyzing the other factors in the case, Bennett said the officer is “clearly immune from prosecution under Kansas law.”
“This was a fairly straightforward assessment, and the facts were not in controversy about what took place,” he said. “The act of firing at an officer and striking him three times …. couldn’t have been much clearer here. So that responding officers, the reasonableness of their perception that they were in grave danger and that of the other neighbors in the area who were stuck in their houses while this was going on is again really not controverted.”