Kansas robber shot himself in head as deputy shot him in back

04/04/2013 12:57 PM

05/20/2014 10:41 AM

A man fleeing from a South Seneca credit union robbery Wednesday suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head that occurred simultaneously to a deputy wounding the robber in his upper back, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said Thursday.

Based on the preliminary investigation, it appears the robber died from the wound to the head, Easter said.

The deputy fired after seeing the robber with a handgun, after the suspect fired once at the deputy and, finally, after the suspect started to turn around, Easter said. The deputy feared for his safety and for others around in the area, a mix of homes and businesses with busy traffic on Seneca, Easter said. The deputy found himself in a situation “where his only option at that point was to fire his weapon” to stop the threat, the sheriff said.

Easter identified the suspect as Horace L. Gwyn, 26, of Wichita. Easter said he wouldn’t name the deputy involved in the shooting but said he is a nine-year veteran.

Investigators recovered a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun from the suspect.

Detectives will try to determine if Gwyn could be linked to other robberies, Wichita police Lt. Joe Schroeder said.

Easter and Schroeder gave this account: As a teller at the Credit Union of America was in the process of opening the credit union and opening a door for a second employee, a masked gunman who had been hiding in a trash container rushed up, armed with a handgun. The employees tried to close the door on the gunman, but the robber immediately struck both women with his hands to get their compliance.

They went to a vault downstairs, where the robber got money; in the process an alarm was triggered. The robber took the tellers back upstairs and took money from a teller station, then took the employees downstairs and bound them with duct tape and left them in the vault. Both received minor injuries; one of the women suffered a cut on her forehead that required stitches.

Meanwhile, the emergency dispatch system received an alarm call at 7:22 a.m. and a deputy at a Seneca substation about 10 blocks of north of the bank drove to the rear of the bank, where he saw a man come out of the bank wearing dark clothing and gloves and carrying a handgun and backpack running north. The deputy began to pursue the suspect in his sheriff’s marked patrol car and the robber disappeared around a house. The deputy used his vehicle to block traffic on Seneca and followed the suspect around the house on foot. Although the deputy had lost eye contact with the suspect, he knew the suspect had a gun. The deputy saw the robber again, still carrying a gun, and chased the suspect on foot. As the suspect crossed Seneca going to the west, he fired one shot at the deputy, and the deputy ordered the suspect to drop the gun and get down.

The deputy used restraint because of traffic around him on busy Seneca, Easter said.

But the suspect held a gun under his chin as if he was going to shoot himself; as the deputy gave more commands, the suspect started to walk away, with the deputy walking after him. The robber raised the gun to the side of his head. After more commands from the deputy, the suspect started to turn and the deputy fired five times, hitting the suspect once in the upper back from about 30 feet away.

Simultaneously, the suspect shot himself in the head. A coroner’s preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect suffered a close-contact wound to the head, Easter said.

Multiple agencies are investigating the robbery and the shooting, Easter said. Wichita police and the FBI are investigating the robbery; the Sheriff’s Office is assisting the KBI in investigating the shooting.

Evidence includes video that captured the robbery and the shooting.

Schroeder, the police lieutenant, said it is somewhat unusual for a bank robber to hit employees. “This was a pretty violent takeover. This particular individual was pretty bent on violence.”

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