10/25/2006

Ex-Kan. officer allegedly fired gun 31 times at unarmed suspect

The Associated Press

HUTCHINSON, Kan.- A former Kingman police officer who allegedly fired his police weapon 31 times while chasing unarmed suspects has been charged with three crimes.

James Williams, 33, was charged Tuesday with one count of criminal discharge of a firearm and two counts of attempted criminal discharge of a firearm.

Kingman County Attorney Bradford Williams said the officer "maliciously and without authority" fired his Glock 9-mm handgun at an occupied vehicle while chasing it in two counties Sept. 10.

"It's not an easy thing to do," Bradford Williams said of charging the officer. "But there's a time for them to use their weapon, and this wasn't the time."

The chase began when James Williams tried to stop Clete Weisz, 28, after receiving a report that Weisz was driving erratically in the Kingman city park.

Police said the chase reached speeds of up to 100 mph and went from Kingman to just south of Arlington in Reno County.

Weisz eventually stopped his car several miles north of Kingman and Williams got out of his patrol car. Weisz then got back into his vehicle and drove off, the county attorney said.

Williams at first chased Weisz on foot and fired the first shot through the driver's-side window, hitting Weisz in the knee, the county attorney said. During the chase, Williams shot his weapon 30 more times, hitting Weisz's vehicle three times, prosecutors said.

On the emergency dispatch recording, obtained by The Hutchinson News on Tuesday, Kingman County dispatchers report to Reno County 911 officials that a pursuit was headed toward Arlington and that shots have been fired.

Later, a passenger in Weisz's car, Darrin Moran, called Reno County 911 and asked for help.

"Who's shooting?" the dispatcher asked.

"Nobody but the police officer," Moran answered. "I can't get him (Weisz) to stop, I tried. ... I just want to get home."

Moran told dispatchers several times that no one in the vehicle had a gun and no one had shot at the officer.

Weisz was later charged with drunken driving and fleeing to elude an officer. Moran wasn't charged.

Bradford Williams said the Kansas Bureau of Investigation indicated that James Williams didn't have a legitimate reason to fire his weapon.

"In this case, he fired at an occupied vehicle," the county attorney said. "He didn't have any reason to shoot just because they didn't pull over for a traffic stop."

Kingman Police Chief John Braden placed James Williams on paid administrative leave after the shooting. Braden said Williams had already planned to leave the department to work for the Pratt Police Department.

Pratt Police Chief Steve Holmes said his department had made a conditional offer to Williams but that offer was withdrawn after the chase.

Williams is scheduled to be in court on Nov. 2.

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