Shadows of Injustice: Unraveling Police Violence in Wichita, Kansas – A Vital Perspective for Communities of Color

By Claudia Yaujar-Amaro, Planeta Venus

An Analysis Reveals Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Lethal WPD Encounters

On the unseasonably warm winter evening of March 6th, 2024, an incident unfolded that gripped the heart of the Latino community in Wichita. Luis Alfonso Rivera, wrestling with the twin specters of addiction and mental illness, found himself cornered in a dangerous ballet of despair and defiance. It began as a chaotic procession along North Fairview, escalating rapidly until it reached a climactic standoff at the intersection of 21st and Arkansas.

At this crossroads, the narrative took a tragic turn. After absorbing the impact of a less-lethal round that failed to subdue him, Rivera, in a moment of fateful resolve, raised his firearm towards the officers and fired. What followed was a volley of response from the assembled law enforcement, a group of eight officers who, as Sheriff Easter reported in the press briefing, discharged no fewer than forty-five rounds in Rivera’s direction. While the Sheriff did not provide specifics on the number of bullets that met their mark, evidence suggests a grievous outcome from the fusillade, leaving a community to grapple with the aftermath of a confrontation turned deadly.  No one better to brief on something of this magnitude than Sheriff Easter who understands how addiction and mental health are ravaging this City and County.

The intersection of 21st and Arkansas has, ironically, become a historical flashpoint, long before Luis Alfonso Rivera witnessed it as the stage for his final, desperate act. This is not lost to the residents of the Northend who, in years past, have expressed their own forms of rebellion at this very crossroads. A meaningful examination of history might have prompted city leaders, then and now, to delve deeper into the root causes of such tensions between the community and law enforcement.

This picture, taken from Kansas GOING BLUE’s Facebook Page, circulates in Social Media. The post states that this property is on the 31st and McLean area in Wichita Kansas. Distrust in authority is dangerous for the community and the Law Enforcement Officers.

The defacing of property around 31st and McLean (according to a social media post) with anti-police sentiment in the aftermath of Rivera’s death is a stark indicator of the fractured trust between some segments of the community and those sworn to protect them. This echoes a sentiment that retired officers suggest harks back to a bygone era before Chief Norman Williams’ tenure—a time when contempt for police was palpable. Such an environment, where distrust is mutual, only serves to undermine the safety of both the community and its police force. The National Institute of Justice states that “Research consistently shows that members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely than whites to view law enforcement with suspicion and distrust. Such individuals frequently report that the police disproportionately single them out because of their race or ethnicity”.

The community’s response to the number of shots fired at Rivera, summarized in the words of a Northend resident as “Se ensañaron con Él” reflects a perception of excessive force, one that transcends the bounds of necessary action into what can be perceived as cruelty. This sentiment, simmering within the community’s collective memory, underscores the deep-seated need for a bridge of understanding and reform between law enforcement and the people they serve.

The response to Rivera’s encounter—marked by what some describe as a display of unrestrained force—compelled the team at Planeta Venus to embark on a retrospective review of the Wichita Police Department’s officer-involved killings over the last decade. Finding a troubling disparity in police killings, with Latino and African American residents disproportionately affected compared to their population share.

According to the population of Wichita sits at 394,574, where Whites make up 61.9% of the population, Latinos 17.6%, African American 9.97%, and Others make up the remaining 10.53%. 

Planeta Venus requested information on Officer Involved Killings for roughly ten years from the Wichita Police Department.  The Wichita Police Department responded three days later and said they required a seven-day extension to compile the number.  Planeta Venus undeterred, obtained the following data from District Attorney’s County Page, who according to a report in 2022 from The Wichita Beacon, In his nine-year tenure, District Attorney Marc Bennett consistently cites the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law as justification for not filing criminal charges in police-involved shooting deaths.

1.      White Victims: The 8 White victims represent 44.44% of the total police killings.


2.      Latino Victims: The 6 Hispanic victims constitute 33.33% of the total police killings, which is almost twice their population proportion of 17.6%. This indicates a significant overrepresentation and suggests that Hispanic individuals are at a higher risk of being killed by police compared to their population share.


3.      African American Victims: With 3 African American victims, they account for 16.67% of the total police killings, which is higher than their population share of 9.97%. This also signifies an overrepresentation, indicating a higher risk for Black individuals.


4.      Other Ethnicities: The 1 victim from other ethnicities makes up 5.56% of the total police killings.

Over 50% of the killings by the Wichita Police Department are people of color.

The fact that WPD command required ten days at minimum indicates a possible disconnect between the data and the WPD command staff’s awareness of it or their sensitivity to the issue. Such delays could suggest a lack of transparency and raise questions about the ethnic diversity within the department’s leadership ranks.

According to some data obtained by Planeta Venus, through an open data request in the last quarter of 2023, there were 64 Latino out of the 599 total officers in the Wichita Police Department. As of 2024 there are 0 Latino Captain, since he recently retired.

The extension of time from the 13th to the 20th of March to comply with the Open Records request became a window into an unsettling disparity that raises questions and demands a broader discussion on law enforcement protocols and community relations, to include Chief Sullivan’s policy of non-transparency with local media. The patterns emerging from the data require an earnest examination of the policies and practices that govern the city’s guardians’ use of force in general, use of lethal force specifically, and their interactions with the very citizens they vow to protect, ALL citizens, even minority communities.

Insights and Conclusions: Understanding Police Killings by Race and Ethnicity in Wichita, Kansas

On March 13th, The Wichita Police Department invited local media to the press conference held to launch ABLE training, a new training program in Wichita to empower officers to intervene and prevent harm, even when they witness misconduct. During the conference Planeta Venus, asked Chief Sullivan if he would be willing to open the department’s books on the use of force to the Department of Justice and he said he would welcome all law enforcement partners including the Department of Justice.

WPD Press Conference to launch ABLE training program.

This article was republished here with the permission of: Planeta Venus