WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — No criminal charges will be filed against a Kansas sheriff's deputy who fatally shot an unarmed woman who refused to pull over during a high-speed police chase that began over a wrong license plate on a vehicle, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett released his final report concluding that the deputy is immune from prosecution in the Dec. 30, 2019, death of 51-year-old Debra Arbuckle.
Bennett cited the state's "stand your ground law'' under which a person who acts in defense of himself or another is immune from prosecution. He determined the deputy fired his weapon to stop what he perceived to be a threat of bodily injury to himself and his fellow deputies.
Attorney Michael Kuckelman, who represents Arbuckle's son in a federal lawsuit over her death, said Thursday that the family is disappointed that Sedgwick County Deputy Kaleb Dailey is not facing a homicide charge. He said eluding an officer doesn’t warrant deadly force.
“No other officer on the scene fired a single shot. That’s because Ms. Arbuckle wasn’t a threat to them,” Kuckelman said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press.
The chase, which lasted 19 minutes, began after a Wichita police officer noticed a Volkswagen with a license plate tag registered to a Chevy pickup. The Volkswagen was stopped at an intersection, but when the officer activated his emergency lights, the driver ran a red light and sped away, according to authorities.
The chase was at one point called off due to the speeds that were reached, but a sheriff's deputy who heard the chase on his law enforcement radio drove to the Volkswagen's last known location. The chase resumed with four pursuing deputies, and the Volkswagen was ultimately forced off the road.
When the reverse lights of the Volkswagen activated, a deputy who was on the passenger side of the vehicle, believed the other deputies would be struck and fired his handgun six times, according to the district attorney's report.
The lawsuit filed by Arbuckle's son, Alek Hansen, identifies the deputy who shot her as Dailey and contends Arbuckle's vehicle was surrounded by patrol cars. It says multiple law enforcement videos show that while Arbuckle did put her car in reverse, she never accelerated toward the deputies.
“Her front wheel didn’t even have a tire on it. They rammed her car, ran it off the road, and they surrounded it with their cars. The officers weren’t in danger,” Kuckelman, the son's attorney, said in his statement Thursday.
Arbuckle was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy determined she died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. A toxicology report determined her blood was positive for cocaine.
This version corrects the first name of the woman who was killed to Debra, not Deborah.