WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay, and others held a news conference to discuss violence that followed a peaceful protest Tuesday night.
Police say there were two unlawful assemblies Tuesday evening.
The evening started with a peaceful rally at the intersection of 21st and Maize Road.
“Started out really as a model protest,” said Ramsay. “Individuals were handing out flowers and it seemed to be going very well.”
The chief says that around 8 p.m., there were disturbances that quickly escalated, leading to a physical fight in the street.
Police say the crowd agitation continued to rise and officers started to clear the crowd. Officers say some people threw bottles at them.
Police arrested five people on suspicion of remaining at an unlawful assembly, one person on suspicion of reckless driving, and one person on suspicion of obstruction.
“When that crowd was clearing, we got information that many of them were heading to 21st and Arkansas,” said Ramsay. “We had a number of officers at that scene, 21st and Arkansas, earlier and they were stationed there to keep peace at that intersection.”
Police say some people threw bottles and rocks at them. They also heard random shots being fired near the gathering.
The crowd got more agitated and some of the people began looting the QuikTrip in the area. A patrol car windshield was also damaged.
Police say they began to clear the area as more random shots were being fired.
“I was also there and you could hear the shots frequently occurring in various locations in the neighborhood,” said Ramsay.
One person was booked on suspicion of unlawful assembly and obstruction.
The WPD then got information that some businesses in east Wichita were being damaged. Officers checked several locations and arrested four people at an eastside business. Officers say they recovered evidence in their car related to the looting at the QuikTrip.
Police booked a 22-year-old woman of Wichita, on suspicion of criminal damage to property, interference with law enforcement, and an outstanding warrant.
They booked a 21-year-old woman of Wichita on suspicion of criminal damage to property, burglary, resisting arrest, and an outstanding warrant.
Police booked a 17-year-old girl on suspicion of burglary, theft, battery of a law enforcement officer, criminal damage to property and resisting arrest.
They booked a 15-year-old girl on charges of burglary, theft and destruction of property.
The Tuesday night events followed violence the previous night. Ramsay said protesters shot at officers and threw rocks at them late Monday night into Tuesday morning near 21st and Arkansas. Police have released video of a someone firing a gun and have asked for help identifying the person.
Ramsay said the city has asked community leaders both informally and formally to help us ensure the protests remain peaceful.
He introduced Pastor C. Richard Kirkendoll, President, Greater Wichita Ministerial League.
“The last three events we lost our focus on what this thing is all about,” said Kirkendoll. “And I believe it’s not the majority of the community, it’s just a few. And so we’re going to do everything we can to bring Wichita Ministerial League to try to calm things down and get back on track.”
“We, the community, we understand are hurt, the anger being a black man. I’ve lived that,” he said. “But yet there is a good peaceful answer. We can get the same results without violence and shooting everything else.”
The police chief says he knows people are concerned about messages they are seeing on social media.
“Some of it is people toying with people,” said Ramsay. “But we are prepared. We are ready to deal with anything that comes along. We are going to keep this city safe and we’re going to aggressively go after those that are victimizing our businesses.”
Mayor Whipple wrapped up the Wednesday news conference with these thoughts:
“I just want to let people know that those who are looking for change, those who are looking to dialogue, and they’re utilizing protests as a way to express their opinions, we hear you.,” he said. “We want to listen. We want to do less talking and more listening and we want to work together to make Wichita a better place for all of us.”