BELLE PLAINE, Kan. -- A Kansas woman who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy after refusing to pull over was unarmed and posed no danger to him or the public, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The court filing paints a different picture to that recounted by authorities following the fatal shooting in Wichita of 51-year-old Debra Arbuckle of Andover by Sedgwick County Deputy Kaleb Dailey in the early morning hours of Dec. 30, 2019.
Authorities said at the time that the deputy fired several rounds after Arbuckle put her car into reverse and accelerated toward deputies. The sheriff's department said the deputy feared for his life.
The family's attorney, Michael Kuckelman, said multiple law enforcement videos show that while Arbuckle did put her car in reverse and the backup lights came on, she never accelerated toward the deputies. Furthermore, Dailey had just rammed her car onto a grassy area and her vehicle was surrounded by patrol cars so she couldn't go anywhere, Kuckelman said. Dailey got out of his car and positioned himself so his vehicle separated him from Arbuckle.
“He wasn't in any sort of danger," Kuckelman said. "He shot her through the passenger window and he shot over his patrol car in order to shoot her.”
Arbuckle couldn't have reached him even if she had wanted to, he said, noting that authorities had earlier spiked her tires during a pursuit so she was unable to drive faster than 15 mph (24 kilometers per hour). Deputies chased Arbuckle because her Volkswagen sedan had a license plate that belonged on a Chevy pickup truck.
The lawsuit, filed by Arbuckle’s son Alek Hansen, seeks unspecified general and punitive damages.
Lt. Benjamin Blick said the Sedgwick County sheriff's office would not comment on the complaint. A home phone number for Dailey could not be found.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in an emailed statement that the case remains under review and that no charging decision has been made. He declined to comment further.
Arbuckle's family wants the sheriff’s department to fire Dailey and for his law enforcement certification to be revoked. They also want Bennett to file criminal charges, Kuckelman said.
Dailey had been on the other side of Wichita when the chase began shortly after 3 a.m., and he raced across the city to join in, at one point reaching 142 mph (230 kilometers per hour).
“That in of itself should result in termination,” Kuckleman said. “We can't have law enforcement driving at speeds of 142 miles an hour through Wichita to go to the east side and join a chase already underway about a wrong license plate being on a vehicle. That is reckless.”