By Tim Potter
The Wichita Eagle
(MCT) On July 4, Icarus Randolph woke up in a bad mental place.
The 26-year-old Marine veteran had served in Iraq and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, his family says.
That afternoon, he became a casualty on his mother's front lawn when a Wichita police officer shot him in front of his family. Then-Police Chief Norman Williams said the officer fired the fatal shots after Randolph charged with a knife.
It was supposed to be a good day at the family home on East Clay, near Rock and Lincoln. Randolph's mother planned a cook-out. But when Beverly Allen returned from the store, her son's eyes told her he was upset. She knew it was serious enough to call for help and ended up talking to a 911 dispatcher.
The purpose that day, his family says, was to get help for him. Instead, they say, the two police officers sent to the home allowed the situation to escalate.
One officer -- the one who fired the shots -- spent crucial minutes arguing with the family in the small front yard when he should have been trying to diffuse things before Randolph came out of a door with a knife, says his older sister, Ida Allen.
The family disagrees with the police account, saying Randolph didn't run or charge at the officer, but walked.
It is the latest shooting by a Wichita police officer to raise questions about how police respond to mentally ill people.
Randolph's family conveyed to 911 that day that he had serious mental health issues, but police didn't follow their policy on dealing with mentally ill people, Ida Allen says.
Policy 519 says that officers should "Present a genuine willingness to understand and help." The policy also says an officer should not argue and should not "corner, or be cornered: (Give the person expanded space and ensure that you, the officers, have expanded space and a safe exit, if it should become necessary)."
Although the idea is to leave a buffer, the police stood in the small front yard with five of Randolph's adult relatives while three children remained on the front porch. According to the family, at least 10 people, including the officers and the children, were 45 feet or closer to Randolph when he came out of the den through a doorway onto the driveway.
His family has made T-shirts that say, "Refusing to follow Policy 519 strips away your rights and mine."
The Police Department spokesman, Lt. James Espinoza, said the department couldn't comment because of the pending investigation of the shooting.
The Randolph shooting bears similarities to a July 2012 shooting in which Wichita police shot and killed 45-year-old Karen Jackson.
A lawsuit filed by Jackson's family in federal court said that in less than two years, from November 2010 to July 2012, Wichita police shot at least 16 people, killing seven and wounding nine. The lawsuit contends that the "enormous number" of shootings by Wichita officers shows "an unwritten de facto policy of unnecessarily using deadly force."
A majority of those shot -- nine -- were African American, though African Americans account for 11.5 percent of the city's population, the lawsuit says. Icarus Randolph was African American. Jackson was white and American Indian, according to the lawsuit.
James Thompson, the attorney representing the Jackson family, said, "There does appear to be a trend here, and the city needs to be taking these issues seriously. I hope that the city improves the way that it deals with the mentally ill in our city."
Jackson, like Randolph, had mental health issues.
Although Jackson's husband told a dispatcher that she was mentally ill, and although the officers knew she was mentally ill, neither officer who responded had training to deal with the mentally ill, the lawsuit said. It added that the officers' "drawing their weapons and yelling at Karen escalated the incident."
Although she eventually approached the officers with a knife in her hand, she had a handicap and moved slowly and "did not pose an imminent threat to the officers" as they backed up, the lawsuit said.
In a response filed in court, the city said its officers used "reasonable force" and that Jackson's actions amounted to an "imminent threat of serious injury" and that she "forced them to shoot her."
The city's attorney said the "alleged statistics" about police shootings cited by the Jackson lawsuit "are inaccurate."
The city contends that one of the officers who responded that day had training to deal with the mentally ill.
In the Randolph shooting -- according to e-mails by city officials that were obtained by The Eagle through an open-records request -- one of the officers involved also had training to deal with the mentally ill.
Family's account of events
The following is the family's account of what happened in the July 4 shooting of Randolph, from interviews with The Eagle.
Included with their account are details from a recording of the emergency radio traffic the afternoon of the shooting.
When 64-year-old Beverly Allen talked to a 911 dispatcher to get help for her son that day, the dispatcher said the first step was to send out an officer to assess her son. He had been hospitalized before for mental health problems.
The dispatcher kept asking if her son was suicidal, and she kept saying, "No." Police said they were responding to a 911 call about a suicidal person.
About 1:07 p.m.: According to a recording of emergency radio traffic, a caller identified as Beverly Allen had asked for an ambulance to take her son back to a hospital, saying he had PTSD. The dispatcher said the caller also said Randolph was "about to unleash the beast."
About 1:10 pm.: According to the radio traffic, Randolph was alone in the house, and the caller was outside with her daughter.
Beverly's oldest daughter, Ida Allen, told a dispatcher that her brother wasn't approachable. Ida Allen thought someone from Comcare, the community mental health agency, would come to the house to help. She was transferred from a 911 dispatcher to a Comcare staffer, who told her that police are trained to handle the mentally ill.
The first officer pulled up on the other side of the street on East Clay.
The Eagle has been unable to obtain from police or the 911 system the times when the officers arrived -- to help determine how long the officers were at the house before the shots were fired. A spokeswoman for the county, which is in charge of the 911 system, said that a police official had asked that the times not be released because of a pending investigation.
Ida Allen met the first officer near the sidewalk in front her mother's house and told the officer that her brother had PTSD and was out of sorts.
Randolph graduated from Southeast High School in 2007 and joined the Marines later that year. In the military, his specialty was rifleman, and he had been deployed to Iraq for seven months, from February to August 2009, according to Marine records.
He had served in the Marines until Oct. 1, 2010, just shy of three years, according to the records. His rank as of May 28, 2010: private.
After leaving the Marines, Randolph got into trouble: He was convicted of forgery and drug possession in Sedgwick County, records show. Seventeen days before the officer shot him, he was discharged from Community Corrections.
His funeral-service program described him as a likable man with a "sweet and gentle spirit. ... He especially loved children and always said encouraging words to them any time he encountered them."
On July 4, a second officer arrived and seemed to take over, asking Ida Allen whether her brother threatened her, whether the family asked him whether he wanted to go to a hospital and whether he had threatened to hurt himself.
The officer concluded by saying something like: "Well, it sounds like he doesn't want to go in."
On July 4, Ida Allen said, she thought the second officer was argumentative. He stood with his arms folded across his chest, his back to the house.
At one point, he told her: "It's the Fourth of July. Who do you want us to call?"
She thought it was strange that the officer wasn't taking notes.
She repeatedly asked if he could have a supervisor come out. The other officer told her they were "quite capable" of handling it.
An August 2012 report by the Police Executive Research Forum, based in Washington, D.C., dealt with de-escalation and minimizing use of force. The report concluded: "The sooner that supervisors arrive at the scene, the more likely they can contain it, 'slow it down,' and avoid the temptation to feel that immediate action is always required."
The Police Department has not released the names of the two officers who responded that day.
While outside with the officer, Ida Allen heard her brother yelling in the house.
Meanwhile, three children from the family, ages 4, 7 and 13, remained on the front porch. Five adults from the family were in the small front yard.
As she and the officer talked, the blinds fell on the den door at the driveway, and they turned to look. She saw her brother throw a chair inside, and she blurted out or thought, "Oh, my God. He's really upset." She said they needed to call someone.
The door to the driveway sits at an angle roughly 45 feet from where Ida Allen and the officer stood. Others were closer to the door. Eventually, Randolph came through the door, kicking the screen out.
During the interview, Ida Allen stood in the front yard where the shooting happened and described, step by step, what she remembered.
She and others called out to her brother. "No, Carus (Icarus). Don't come out. Go back."
As he kept walking forward at an angle in the direction of the officer, she called out, "Everybody move." She wanted people to give her brother room.
At that point, she reflected during an interview, "We don't know what he's thinking."
The first officer who had arrived moved back as her brother came forward. The second officer, the one she found argumentative, turned and pivoted so that he ended up farther into the yard, facing her brother. Her brother kept walking toward the officer. She described his gait as "a weird walk," "like a stroll."
Her brother might have had something in his right hand, but she couldn't see it from where she was standing.
People were screaming: "Carus! No! No!" and "Don't shoot him! He doesn't know!"
Ida Allen stepped toward the officer as her brother approached. She now thinks that maybe she was trying to intervene.
Screams kept ringing out. "Move! Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"
Ida Allen said she remembers the officer pulling out his stun gun and instantly dropping it.
Williams, who has since retired as police chief, told reporters a few days after the shooting that the officers arrived and saw a man running out through a screen door with a hunting or combat knife, its blade 4 to 5 inches long. One officer fired a Taser first, then shot his gun after Randolph was charging at the officer and within about 6 feet, Williams said. A knife is "always a lethal weapon," Williams said.
Ida Allen recalls that after the officer quickly dropped his Taser, he stepped back and fired his gun. She heard the first "pop" of the gun firing. She was close enough to touch her brother.
The shot seemed to hit him in the chest, and she asked herself whether she was dreaming.
Police are trained, once they perceive an imminent threat, to shoot for the center mass. They do not shoot to wound.
Ida Allen remembers someone saying, "Don't shoot, don't shoot."
Then more gunshots: "Pop ... pop ... pop."
She maintains that the officer never gave a command to her brother.
After the officer finished firing, he backed up toward a car by the driveway next door.
About 1:27 p.m., about 20 minutes after the 911 call: In the recording of emergency radio traffic, someone is screaming in the background, and a man says over the radio, "Start supervisor" and "Shots fired."
Randolph's mother, Beverly Allen, said she wanted to be with her son in the moments after he was shot. She tried to kneel down and touch him, but the officer pointed the gun at her and told her to get back, she said.
"I never got to hold my son, embrace him, not once," she said.
Three days after the shooting, City Manager Robert Layton sent an e-mail to the police chief, saying "CM Williams," referring to City Council member Lavonta Williams, asked for a summary of what led to the shooting. She wanted to know more about the 911 call and police "procedures for responding to a potential suicide threat." She asked "if our officers receive training for incidents involving mental health issues."
In a response three hours later, an e-mail from the police chief to the city manager said the department will provide information that "does not compromise the current investigation." The chief said that in June 2013 the department "increased its mental health training by 15 hours" and has more than 70 officers who are "CIT trained," adding, "The officer involved with the July 4, 2014 is CIT trained." CIT refers to Crisis Intervention Team.
Now, where Randolph's blood soaked his mother's front lawn, a bare spot remains.
"I never would have guessed in a million years that my son would have been shot down in my front yard in front of me," Beverly Allen said.
July 4 is Ida Allen's birthday. Now, it is the day that she saw her brother get shot.
"The irony of it all," she said, "is now we all suffer from PTSD. ...
"That didn't have to happen the way it did that day."
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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