Wichita A former prison inmate who killed a Kansas sheriff’s deputy had no known ties to him and waited to ambush any officer who responded to his bogus 911 theft call, authorities said Tuesday.
Deputy Brian S. Etheridge, 26, was shot twice Monday after he went to a southeast Wichita home on a routine call.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw identified the shooter as former prison inmate Richard L. Lyons. The 27-year-old suspect was killed in a shootout with officers several hours after Etheridge was shot.
Lyons called to report a theft, then hid in the backyard of a house with a rifle and a small cache of ammunition, the sheriff said.
“It could have been any law enforcement officer. ... This was just a call to 911 to get any officer to respond,” Hinshaw said.
The deputy followed standard procedure when he arrived and no one came to the front door, Hinshaw said. The officer called dispatch over the radio asking for a contact number and then walked to the rear of the house, where the suspect was hiding, armed with a 30-30 lever action rifle.
Lyons opened fire, shooting the deputy in the back. The shot penetrated the deputy’s body armor. Investigators believe Lyons walked up to the deputy and, when the rifle malfunctioned, took the deputy’s Glock 17 pistol and shot him, Hinshaw said.
Authorities mistakenly believed Lyons was holed up in a residence and fired two rounds of tear gas into the home.
They were about to set off explosives to blow open the front door when the suspect was spotted, said Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams.
Officials from the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were searching a nearby field in a Humvee when they saw Lyons hiding in a tree line. The suspect ran into the field firing the deputy’s pistol at the agents, who returned fire. The suspect was shot “multiple times,” but Hinshaw said he did not know how many shots hit him.