Affidavit: Woman describes ‘scary’ experience when suspect in wild police chase barges into her house

photo by: Kansas Department of Corrections

Justin L. Nichols

A Lawrence woman was home by herself on a recent Saturday when a man she didn’t know suddenly came in through the back door, then grabbed her by the hair when she tried to run.

The man, it turns out, was trying to hide after leading law enforcement on a car chase and then a foot chase from Clinton State Park into Lawrence, according to a police affidavit in the case.

Following the incident, Justin L. Nichols, 37, of Lawrence, was captured and charged with multiple felonies: kidnapping, aggravated burglary, fleeing police and interfering with law enforcement. According to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, he also was charged with one misdemeanor count of interfering with law enforcement.

The Journal-World requested and recently received the affidavit, prepared by a Lawrence police officer, from Douglas County District Court. According to the document, here’s how the incident unfolded:

About 11:45 a.m. May 11, a state wildlife and parks officer at Clinton State Park approached Nichols and a woman regarding a report of a “trashed bathroom” at the park.

Instead of his real name, Nichols gave that officer the name Jeremy Nichols, but a person by that name had an active municipal court arrest warrant. When the officer told Nichols he was under arrest for that warrant, Nichols ran to a car and drove off.

Lawrence police and Kansas Highway Patrol officers pursued the car into Lawrence, as it failed to signal or stop at multiple stop signs or lights. The car also collided with a civilian’s vehicle on Wakarusa but kept on going (the man driving the other car told law enforcement that he purposely veered in front of Nichols’ car to block it because he could see it was trying to elude police; his car sustained minor damage to the rear fender).

After Nichols’ car went off the road at West 27th Street and Lawrence Avenue, just south of Holcom Park, Nichols got out and ran with officers chasing after him on foot.

He ran between houses then into the back door of a house in the 2700 block of Grand Circle, neighbors told police.

The woman inside later told police — as she rubbed her head and arm — that she didn’t know Nichols and didn’t let him in. She said once inside he held his fingers to his mouth as if to “shush” her, and when she tried to run for the front door, he followed her and grabbed her by the hair to keep her from getting out. He then blocked the front door.

The woman told police that she told Nichols “no” multiple times and that as she scuffled with him he either hit her on the head or her head hit the wall before she was able to “squeeze” out the front door.

Once outside she ran to the house of a neighbor, who let her in. She told police the encounter was “scary.”

Two law enforcement officers outside her house arrested Nichols at about 12:10 p.m.

One of the officers wrote in the affidavit that he “instantly recognized” the suspect as Nichols from past law enforcement contacts.

Nichols previously served prison time for multiple felony convictions in Douglas County, including robberies he committed in 2007 and 2002, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records.

Nichols’ appointed attorney, Joshua Seiden, didn’t address specific allegations against his client for this story but did offer a general comment.

“These affidavits are simply collections of unchallenged allegations that certainly are not intended to exonerate anyone,” Seiden said in an email. “Though Mr. Nichols is facing criminal prosecution, the presumption of innocence remains.”

According to Douglas County District Court records, Nichols remains jailed on $150,000 bond while his new case proceeds.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd


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