WICHITA — A man suspected in the shooting of a Kansas Department of Revenue employee in Wichita was under investigation by the agency and owed nearly $400,000 in sales taxes related to his construction business, according to police and records.
Ricky Todd Wirths, 51, walked into the taxation side of the Wichita office on Tuesday afternoon and asked to see Cortney Holloway, a tax seizure agent, according to Wichita police officer Charley Davidson. The two men were discussing Wirths' case when Wirths pulled out a gun and shot Holloway, Davidson said at a news conference Wednesday.
Holloway, 35, was in stable condition Wednesday. He works in the tax compliance division, where employees often are required to seize property to pay back taxes.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said in a statement that Holloway was "doing his job" and asked the public to pray for him and his family.
The first tax warrant for $196,455.46 in unpaid sales tax was filed June 1 against Wirths, who was doing business as Rick Wirths Construction, according to court records. Another tax warrant was filed June 13 against his company for $198,250.02 in unpaid consumers compensating use tax, which is sales tax for merchandise purchased outside the state for use in Kansas.
The warrants are for tax periods spanning June 2012 to July 2015.
"Asset seizure is the very last resort," Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said in a news release. "Our agents work tirelessly in good faith with the taxpayer to try to set up payment plans. If those efforts fail repeatedly, we have to comply with Kansas law to recover those debts."
The state Department of Revenue said it began at 11:59 a.m. Tuesday seizing Wirths' assets in conjunction with Sedgwick County sheriff's deputies. Police said they got the call about the shooting at the tax office around 2:40 p.m.
Seized assets included all known bank accounts, on-site cash, business inventory and personal property, Revenue Department spokeswoman Rachel Whitten said in an email. The property will be sold at public auction with proceeds going toward paying his delinquent taxes.
Wirths, of Wichita, was booked into jail on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and was being held without bond. No charges have been formally filed.
He was arrested about 30 minutes after the shooting, police Sgt. Chad Beard said. Law enforcement officers stopped Wirths down the street from his house. Revenue Department employees and sheriff's deputies had gone to a residence in the area earlier while investigating the suspect.
Dave Hiegel, who said he has known Wirths for 22 years, said his friend did dirt-moving work with his father, installed windows for a few years and most recently had done parking lot and pavement sealing, The Wichita Eagle reported.
"I guess he was losing everything," Hiegel said. "That would be hard to swallow."
Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said workers who were in the office at the time of the shooting described the scene to him. He said there were bullet holes in cubicle walls and that employees were badly shaken. He said there was no security for workers inside the facility and that they had complained about that to management.
"There's nobody to screen you to see if you have any weapons on you," Choromanski said. "There's no metal detector, nothing. You just walk in."
— This story has been corrected to show Wirths is being held on suspicion of an attempted first-degree murder charge.