A Goddard police officer who fatally shot a man after a brief vehicle chase followed by the man approaching the officer while holding a gun, later determined to be a BB gun, will not be charged, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Monday.
Michael James Trask, 39, of the Lake Afton area, died after being shot on Feb. 20 following a vehicle pursuit that led to a brief confrontation between Trask and the police officer, just south of Goddard city limits, The Eagle reported.
“Under Kansas law and the facts of the case, I conclude that no criminal charges will be filed against the Goddard Officer,” Bennett said.
The officer involved in the shooting had been with the Goddard Police Department for seven years at the time of the incident and he had been in law enforcement in Kansas since 2005, a news release from the DA’s office shows.
The officer is still employed by the Goddard Police Department, Bennett said in a Monday Zoom interview.
Bennett shared his findings about the shooting and the decision to not charge the officer.
On the morning of Feb. 20 the Goddard police officer was in the parking lot of the WalMart on West Kellogg in Goddard when he saw a 2005 dark blue Dodge Ram 1500 driven by Trask leaving the parking lot in a hurry and squealing its tires, the news release said.
The officer followed the truck where at 9:44 a.m. he attempted to initiate a traffic stop on 199th West at 31st South. The Ram did not stop and a five-minute vehicle chase ensued, The Eagle reported.
Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter previously said that the Goddard officer notified Sedgwick County Emergency Communications that he was ending the pursuit because of the reckless driving and high speeds of the truck — as a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office deputy was joining the pursuit near Lake Afton.
The officer turned off his emergency lights and reduced his speed but continued to follow the Ram from distance as it turned east onto 63rd Street South and gradually began to slow down, Bennett said.
The officer attempted to stop the truck a second time by activating his lights and sirens. The officer then told dispatch that the driver had “flashed a gun at him” before coming to a stop, The Eagle reported.
At 9:49 a.m., the Ram had come to a stop on 183rd West and 63rd South. Trask remained in the truck for 37 seconds before exiting and beginning to walk back toward the officer’s patrol car, the news release said.
The officer recognized Trask and recalled him carrying what appeared to be a handgun, which later was determined to be a BB gun.
“I could see his hands and the gun was in his right hand,” the officer said.
At 9:51 a.m., dispatch received a call from a woman who said she was the Trask’s wife.
“She advised, her husband is in a high-speed chase and the suspect advises he’s probably going to be dead,” Easter previously said. “Call noted the suspect is suicidal and armed with a loaded 40-caliber handgun.”
Trask continued to walk toward the patrol vehicle for 26 seconds while the officer yelled multiple commands to “put your hands up now,” “don’t come towards me, dude,” “I don’t wanna shoot you,” “put your hands up, drop the gun,” and “don’t make me shoot you dude,” the release said.
Trask approached the front of the patrol vehicle where the officer fired eight shots from his gun. Trask was struck in the head and abdomen. He died at the scene, Bennett said.
Moments later a Clearwater police officer and the Sedgwick County deputy arrived and secured the scene.
Investigators interviewed Trask’s wife who said he had moved out of their home and had been living in a camper at Lake Afton for a “period of time” and expressed concerns for Trask’s mental health a day before the chase, the release said.
“Despite the warnings, Mr. Trask continued toward the officer with the apparent weapon in his hand,” Bennett said. “Believing he would be shot by Mr. Trask, the Goddard officer fired his weapon 8 times, striking Mr. Trask twice. Mr. Trask died as a result.”