Charles and Linda Segebrecht had been shopping at Wal-Mart on “a gorgeous day” when they became immersed in a horrific incident that shocked them out of their complacency.
First came a woman’s scream. Then Linda saw and heard another woman yell directly to her:
“Call 911! He’s got a gun!”
The Segebrechts had driven smack into the middle of what authorities say was a brutal attempted robbery that turned into a deadly encounter between two attackers and two unrelated Good Samaritans.
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In a matter of minutes one of the attackers was dead and one of the Good Samaritans was critically wounded, as was a mother who apparently was the initial target.
Exactly three days after that Sunday afternoon incident, at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, an Overland Park man made his first appearance in Johnson County District Court. Arthur Fred Wyatt III, 27, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and other crimes, accused of repeatedly hitting the mother on the head and trying to rob her.
When Magistrate Judge Daniel W. Vokins learned that Wyatt’s previous convictions included involuntary manslaughter and aggravated arson, he doubled the bond to $2 million.
Also by late Wednesday afternoon, a GoFundMe page for Joshua James Owen, the Good Samaritan who was wounded, had raised more than $30,000 from more than 800 people to pay for the uninsured landscaper’s extensive medical bills. The husband, father of a 15-year-old daughter and Air Force war veteran was struck by three bullets — in the face, the wrist and the chest. The 33-year-old Kansas City man faces many surgeries in the weeks ahead and is not expected to be able to work for at least six months.
“We will continue to pray for a speedy recovery for Josh, as well as the victims and any other members of the community who were affected by this unfortunate and unforgettable event,” Owen’s sister-in-law Brittany Parks wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We ask you to do the same.”
Linda Segebrecht, an education consultant who has worked with the Battle of the Brains at Union Station’s Science City and several other projects, immediately called 911 as the woman in the parking lot implored her to do. Charles Segebrecht, a volunteer firefighter for Lake Quivira, at first mistakenly thought someone was having a heart attack and he prepared to do what he could to help.
That’s when the gunfire began. The Segebrechts saw it all through their windshield.
“Two men tumbled out in front of us and one had a gun and was shooting at the other one,” Linda Segebrecht said. “They were wrestling on the ground.”
One of those men was 28-year-old John W. Simmons III of Kansas City. The other was Owen, who was not armed but was coming to the aid of a woman who was struck in the back of the head as she was placing her child into a car seat in the parking lot outside the lawn and garden section of the Wal-Mart.
“And then a third man came out from between the cars and he shot the man with the gun,” Linda Segebrecht continued. “He shot, it looked like, several times. It looked like he was trying to get up and then finally he fell backwards.”
Simmons died at the scene. According to police, the second man with a gun was a second Good Samaritan. Police questioned that 36-year-old De Soto resident and released him later that afternoon. Police have not released his name.
By this time Charles Segebrecht was backing up, trying to get himself and his wife away from any errant bullets.
“My husband turned and saw a second man run up the hill and the back down the hill,” Linda Segebrecht said. “Then he turned around and ran away.”
That, apparently, was the other alleged attacker. A police K9 unit soon apprehended nearby a man who fit the description that witnesses gave. But they later released him after determining he was not involved in the Wal-Mart incident. Police then began the hunt for the second attacker, which led them Tuesday to Wyatt.
Wyatt was convicted as a juvenile in 2003 of aggravated arson and a few years later of involuntary manslaughter in Wyandotte County. He was convicted again in Wyandotte County in 2012 on a drug charge. He was released from state prison in July 2015 and his sentence expired in July this year.
According to court records, Wyatt was either employed by or had some affiliation with Avenue of Life, a Kansas City, Kan., organization whose mission “is to mobilize our community to equip and empower low-income individuals and families to be self-sustained and independent,” according to its website. The organization did not return calls Wednesday.
Wyatt’s father on Wednesday told The Kansas City Star that his son was at the crime scene at Wal-Mart on Sunday but said he was not the gunman.
“All I can say is my son never pulled a trigger on a gun at that site and he’s being blamed for everything,” Arthur Wyatt Jr. said. “He didn’t have a gun and they didn’t find no gunshot residue on him or nothing. … I think it’s an injustice on the Shawnee Mission police force to say, ‘OK, we’re going to put all the blame on you and we got our man and glorify ourselves,’ because he wasn’t the guy that committed the crime.”
The criminal complaint against Wyatt alleges he did shoot at Owen with the premeditation of killing him. It also alleges that Wyatt repeatedly struck the mother, identified only as “M.D.J.” and a 39-year-old Kansas City, Kan., resident. The complaint alleges Wyatt’s actions were an attempted kidnapping and that he tried to grab her “purse or keys or motor vehicle.” The woman was released from a hospital on Monday.
Arthur Wyatt Jr. said his son did not know what Simmons intended to do in that parking lot and that he thinks Simmons had a bipolar disorder.
Federal court records show that Simmons, at the time of his death, was under indictment in U.S. District Court in Western Missouri for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and for having a firearm while trafficking drugs and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Missouri court records show Simmons had a protective order against him in 2013, ordering him to stay away from a person with whom he had a child.
The day Wyatt was charged, Owen underwent a second surgery, this one on his hand, according to the GoFundMe page. A previous surgery on Sunday was on his face after a bullet removed part of his nose, shattered cheek bones and damaged nerves. A third bullet struck his chest and traveled up to his left shoulder and remained lodged in the bone on Wednesday, according to the GoFundMe page. He is unable to eat because of the surgeries and trauma to his face; a tube offers nutrients.
“This past Sunday was not the first time Josh has put his life on the line to save someone else’s,” the page said, adding that the joined the Air Force after 9/11 and during more than four years’ deployment served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“He was also present during the shooting at Independence Center in 2012, and quickly responded by helping aid people who were injured,” the page said. “Josh has always put others before himself, and we are all confident he will continue to do so, even after this tragic event that has left him hospitalized.”
The Saturday afternoon shooting at Independence Center in 2012 injured two people and caused the mall to shut down for several hours.
Linda Segebrecht said she had never before experienced anything like what happened Sunday afternoon in the Wal-Mart parking lot and she hopes she never will again. As she related events to a police dispatcher on the phone, she did not realize that Good Samaritans were involved.
“It was absolutely shocking to see all that happen in front of you,” she said. “It didn’t seem real.”
To reach Matt Campbell: firstname.lastname@example.org, 816-234-4902, @mattcampbellKC