WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Wichita Police Department (WPD) said they tried many different ways to end a standoff peacefully Wednesday, but they could not prevent the fatal end to a standoff in west Wichita.
During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Captain Jason Stephens with the WPD Crimes Against Persons Bureau identified the suspect who died as Gregorio Merced Banuelos.
Watch the news conference below:
Initial call and police response
The standoff began around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 500 block of N. Milstead. Police say a woman called to report she had been shot.
The WPD said that when they first arrived at the scene, they found the woman and a child outside the home. The woman told officers that a man in the house had fired a weapon at her. She initially thought she had been shot, but she was not. She, the child, and another adult in the home got out safely.
She told officers that Banuelos was a relative and that he arrived at the home intoxicated with a woman, possibly a girlfriend. Police say Banuelos did not live at the house. The woman who called 911 told officers that she asked the visiting woman to leave, and she did.
She said that when the woman left, it agitated Banuelos. She said he began arguing with her and then physically assaulted her, injuring her slightly. She said he followed her around the house with a gun and then fired a shot at her. She thought she had been hit. Police say the other adult who also escaped the home confirmed the woman’s version of what happened.
Officers say they saw Banuelos walk out of the home with a gun, make comments and then walk back into the house. At 2:05 a.m., the WPD decided to activate SWAT and crisis hostage negotiators.
Suspect’s criminal history
Captain Stephens said that police began digging into Banuelos’ history to learn what they were dealing with. He said Banuelos had a previous felony gun conviction and was prohibited from having a gun.
Stephens said Banuelos also had two felony warrants and a misdemeanor warrant. He said the felony warrants connected to a domestic violence incident on Oct. 19, 2021. Stephens said Banuelos was arrested in the incident and charged with aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated battery, aggravated assault, criminal threat, and felon in possession of a firearm.
On May 16, nine days before the standoff, Stephens said Banuelos was alleged to have assaulted another family member with a firearm. He was not arrested in that incident. Stephens said the report came from an out-of-state family member who saw a video that depicted Banuelos assaulting someone. Stephens does not believe the police ever saw the video. He also said there was not a lot of evidence or cooperation for police to be able to make an arrest in the May 16 case.
As SWAT and negotiators arrived, Stephens said police tried to end the standoff peacefully and de-escalate the situation.
He said officers tried several ways to talk to Banuelos and get him to surrender. Stephens said they used a loudspeaker, phones, and even social media but were unsuccessful.
Police sent in a robot that is capable of getting a visual reference point and can project a live audio feed. Unfortunately, the robot was unsuccessful on the main floor of the home.
Stephens said officers used a throw phone, one the suspect could pick up and use to communicate with officers. That was also unsuccessful.
They sent the robot and the phone into the basement. That was also unsuccessful.
Stephens said police deployed a K-9 to find where Banuelos was in the basement. He said officers could see that Banuelos was in a room in the basement and that he was armed with a gun. Stephens said Banuelos made threats against the officers and talked about the K-9 in an agitated manner.
The robot became disabled temporarily, and officers resorted to using a ball camera and a pole camera to keep track of where Banuelos was in the basement. Stephens said Banuelos turned off power to the home.
During this time, officers said they heard a single gunshot. Police say they continued to make verbal demands. They also got the robot to work again and redeployed it. Police say they began discussing other options.
“While holding a position in the basement, Mr. Banuelos emerged into view,” Stephens said. “He was clearly holding a gun. He pointed that gun at the officers, and they responded in self-defense by firing multiple shots with both a firearm and a less-than-lethal device.”
The officers retreated and took a position at the top of the staircase. Stephens said the officers heard Banuelos angrily shouting and firing several shots from the basement.
Stephens said the police video shows a projectile coming through the drywall of the staircase toward the officers. The officers were not injured. They retreated through the garage and positioned themselves behind the armored vehicles outside.
“Not long after they were able to do that, Mr. Banuelos emerged from a walkout door from the residence into the garage, very aggressively began to move in their direction,” Stephens said. “Two officers positioned outside saw this, believed that he was moving toward those officers armed with a gun, and fired in defense of those officers, and he fell to the ground.”
As soon as SWAT determined it was safe, emergency crews moved in. They were unable to save Banuelos. He died at the scene.
The fatal shooting happened around 10:30 a.m., nine hours after the standoff began.
Stephens said four officers fired shots during the incident. Two are Wichita police officers. Two are with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office. The WPD officers each have 20 years with the department. One of the deputies has six years with the sheriff’s office. The other has 12 years. All four are on administrative leave, which is standard procedure when officers are involved in shootings.
The WPD and the sheriff’s office are investigating the case. However, they have also asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to assist “for transparency and accountability purposes.”
Stephens said the coroner will do an autopsy on Banuelos.