Wichita, KS — Last year, a cop was fired after he shot a little girl inside her own home while trying to kill her dog. Showing that they are willing to hold their own accountable, the officer was charged with felony aggravated battery the following March. However, this month, TFTP has learned that a Wichita judge ruled the cop is immune from criminal prosecution and can't be sued.
Judge Kevin O’Connor issued his ruling last month on the case of officer Dexter Betts. However, it was not made public until this month. After the ruling, according to the Wichita Eagle, the Sedgwick County district attorney’s office filed a notice of appeal.
Last year, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett released body camera video from officer Dexter Betts which shows him attempt to kill a 35 pound dog and strike a small 9-year-old girl instead.
Despite this horrifying video, showing the completely unnecessary shots fired from Betts' gun, which struck a little girl in the face, the judge ruled the officer's actions were reasonable. Betts' lawyer convinced the judge that his client fired his duty weapon legally and in an act of self-defense.
As the Eagle reports, the wording of the statute used as a defense is that use of force “against another” is justified if the person using it “reasonably believes” that it is necessary to defend themselves or a third person “against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
The prosecution disagreed, claiming that the law did not apply to animals and that self-defense cannot be claimed by someone who acts recklessly.
“It was not reasonable under the circumstances to fire twice without a clear background, with a child in the line of fire, a few feet away, at a dog the officer already knew was present,” prosecutors wrote in court filings. “The threat posed by the animal, if at all, was that it might bite the officer, not create a risk of death or great bodily harm.”
We agree. Sadly, however, the judge did not and Betts is now immune from being prosecuted despite shooting a little girl after being scared of her small dog.
“The injuries to the little girl as a result of the actions of Officer Betts were certainly unfortunate and regrettable. However, the court finds that the State has failed to meet its burden to demonstrate that the defendant’s use of force was not justified,” O'Connor wrote.
In January of 2018, Betts was placed on administrative leave after discharging his firearm inside a family's home—in the cowardly attempt to kill a dog. Then, in an actual moment of accountability, Officer Betts was fired and in March of 2018 he was charged.
According to Kansas.com, Betts was the first cop in decades to be charged in an on-duty shooting that resulted in an injury or death. Apparently, however, this was all in vain.
As TFTP reported at the time, according to the family's attorney, the girl, hit by bullet fragments, was so directly in the line of fire when the officer shot at her dog that the flashlight he shined from above his gun barrel illuminated her face right before he fired. Indeed, this was all verified by the video.
The video shows Betts and his partner approach the house with flashlights and enter through the front door. When they enter the house, several children are seen in the living room watching television.
Betts checks the hallway and then returns to the living room where he becomes frightened by the family's medium sized English bull terrier named Chevy.
"Ok, we got a dog inside here, too," he says. "Whoa! Whoa!"
Then, with careless disregard for the children in the room, Betts puts the lives of multiple innocent lives in danger to shoot at a dog who just barked at him.
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"Ow! Ow! Ow, you hurt my eye! Ow! Ow!" the girl begins to yell immediately. Her screams are absolutely heartbreaking.
Betts then orders all the children out of the room. When dispatch asks Betts over the radio what happened, he tells them the "Dog inside attacked us." Apparently barking is now an attack.
As KAKE reported at the time, officers were called at around 6:15 p.m. to the report of a domestic disturbance and suicidal person in the 1500 block of North Gentry, near 13th and Hillside. Officer Paul Cruz said in a news release that officers were told a 33-year-old man in the home had held a gun in his mouth and choked a dog.
When officers arrived at the home, instead of getting the woman and four children to safety, they went in guns blazing after learning that the gun the man had held in his mouth was under a pillow in a bedroom.
"While the officers were retrieving the gun, a mid-sized mixed breed dog charged at one of the officers," the release said." The officer pulled his service weapon and shot at the dog, missing it."
This is Chevy.
The poorly aimed shot then ricocheted off the floor and a fragment of the bullet struck the innocent 9-year-old girl in the forehead just above her right eye. Had the bullet struck just an inch lower, the poor girl could've been permanently blinded or worse.
Danielle Maples, the girl's mother recounted the horrifying experience to the press noting that her daughter was sitting down on the couch when she was struck in the head. Also, her 6-year-old son was standing right next to the officer when he fired not one but two shots.
The little girl was brought to the hospital and treated for her injuries. Luckily, Maples' three other children were not physically injured. However, the emotional scarring left by this experience could last a lifetime.
Maples explained how at the hospital doctors removed three fragments of the bullet from her daughter's head showing just how close she'd come to being blinded.
Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay reportedly told Maples in a phone conversation after ge watched the video “that what he witnessed was not only morally wrong but against their protocols and training.” He didn’t say why, she said.
As for the suicidal man in the home, luckily he was not killed and completely cooperated with police. He was also brought to a hospital where he was given a mental health exam, according to the police statement.
Last year, Betts' attorney, Jess Hoeme said her client did nothing wrong and was totally in the right when he nearly killed a little girl to prevent the possibility of her small dog biting him. She accurately predicted the immunity outcome.
“I expect that this will be litigated at length because I firmly believe that Mr. Betts did not act recklessly under the circumstances, and we look forward to presenting our defense in court,” she said.
She was right and now Betts could go back to work as a cop where he could strike again.