Wichita Police and KHP conceal truth in 12-year old girl’s death

The Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) was enacted to ensure transparency in state and local government offices. For a fee, private citizens can request official documents which the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) is then charged with locating and mailing.

Unfortunately, the people of Kansas can no longer trust KORA to provide accurate documents to the public.

On February 12, 2012, Wichita police Officer Atlee Vogt was responding to a burglary call in Downtown Wichita. Vogt was speeding north along Broadway, just south of Harry, going as fast as 51 mph in a 30 mph zone. At approximately 6:55 pm, Vogt’s police vehicle struck and killed twelve-year old Suhani Bhakta, as she was crossing the street in front of her parents’ home.

Vogt did not use his flashing lights or sirens as he sped through a block known for a high rate of pedestrian traffic, due to the grocery store being on one side of the street, with several motels on the other. Suhani’s parents, who are suing the Wichita Police Department for the wrongful death of their daughter, own and live within the Frontier Motel, which is situated directly across the street from the door to the Dillions store.

Probably because there was snow on the ground, Suhani and her cousin crossed the street mid-block, to buy some groceries for the family. If the children saw the police car approaching, they likely assumed it was going around 30 mph, as it should have been.

Suhani C. Bhatka - July 11, 1999 - February 12, 2012
Suhani C. Bhatka – July 11, 1999 – February 12, 2012

The Kansas Highway Patrol (KHP) investigates vehicle-related accidents that involve Kansas police officers. The KHP released a report in January 2013, finding Officer Vogt negligent in Suhani’s death. This report, which is available to the public, was altered from its original form.

KHP Public Report PDF

The real report is “for law enforcement purposes only” and “may not be reproduced”.

There are three glaring differences in the report that was released to the public and the report we were not meant to see.

Section IV of the police-eyes-only report, called a CHART, discusses the human factors that contributed to the accident. In the CHART report, it states:

“Driver # 1 [Vogt] was interviewed by Trooper Robinson at City Hall, the evening of the crash; Officer Vogt declined to make a statement concerning the events of that evening.”

This was completely omitted from the report that was released to the public. Not blacked-out, simply omitted.

Just below that, in the CHART report, listed under human factors, under the subheading “Alcohol and Drug Testing”,  the Kansas Highway Patrol states:

“There were no evaluations made of Driver # 1 [Vogt]. The toxicology results of the Pedestrian [Suhani] were negative of any controlled substances or alcohol.”

In other words, the police drug tested the 12 year old girl they ran over, but did not drug test the police officer who hit her with his car, while speeding without his lights or sirens on. And this too, was omitted from the report that was made available to the public.

Section VI is entitled “Analysis, Inferences and Conclusions”. In this section, on page 6 of the CHART report, a trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol states:

“I was also hindered in my investigation due to a lack of a statement from the driver of the Ford [Vogt], due to this lack of information; an assumption must be made as to why he was decelerating. The question is why was the vehicle decelerating, was it for the perceived hazard of a pedestrian in the roadway, or the approaching intersection.”

This too, was omitted from the report that was released to the public, the report that one would receive if they filed a KORA request on this case.

Officer Atlee Vogt, despite his refusal to cooperate with investigators, despite his being found negligent, by the Kansas Highway Patrol, is still a Wichita Police Officer.

Looking at the information that was concealed from the public, it becomes immediately clear that the point of the investigation was to protect the officer. This can most clearly be seen in the fact that they drug tested the child who was crossing the street in front of her home, but not the 24 year old police officer who killed her.

The Kansas Highway Patrol and/or the KBI concealed this information, and the fact that Vogt refused to answer any questions, from the public, with the obvious purpose of  protecting an officer who is, in fact, negligent in the death of a child.

A shadow of doubt is now cast over the entire KORA process and the public’s right to be informed of matters of great concern.

And all of this happens as the Wichita Police Department quietly fires Officer Randy Williamson, for the falsification of documents. Williamson shot and killed Troy Lanning II, an unarmed man who was running away. Lanning was shot multiple times in the back.

Williamson was on the SCAT team, which makes drug-related arrests. There are probably a lot of people sitting in prison right now, based on Williamson’s testimony.

The people of Kansas have a right to information regarding officer misconduct. Police officers are not above the law. On the contrary, a police officer should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, not a lower one.

No justice, no peace.

12 thoughts on “Wichita Police and KHP conceal truth in 12-year old girl’s death

  1. T
    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: “nita wilkinson”
    Date: Mar 19, 2013 2:34 PM
    Subject: KHP accident investigations

    I watched your story regarding the accident involving WPD and the information from Occupy Wichita.
    My Brother Bill Thurman his wife Tonya and I were involved in an accident last July 1, 2012 the first Sunday of the month (well known for being the day of the breakfast motorcycle ride ) just south of Cassoday, ks at 9:30 am.
    Butler County Sheriff officer SGT Luke W Grimes was southbound on highway 177 as we were riding motorcycles northbound to Cassoday.
    He passed a southbound motorcycle in a no passing zone at a high rate of speed as he responded to a call in Rosehill, Ks                                          ( violating K.S.A. 8-1506 ).
    . As we came up an incline I was faced with his vehicle coming straight at me in my lane.
    He returned to the southbound lane barely missing me. I was breaking hard as I tried to move over to the far right.. causing my bike to go down. As my Brother and his wife ( on one bike ) came up from behind , my Brother was unable to avoid hitting my motorcycle as it was now in the road … they fliped In to the ditch.
    The officer is not listed on the Butler County accident report and when I went to the Butler County sheriffs office to pick up a copy of the accident report I overheard Sberiff Kelly Herzet ask the receptionist what I was there for. Just days later a story appeared in the Eldorado Times. Sheriff Herzet stated ” two motorcycles Collide near Cassoday ” . I wrote a letter to the editor titled “The full story” .
    The KHP did their investigation after the fact… ( I had posted information on the KHP accident reporting website.)  Of course the KHP investigation favours the Butler County Sheriff. It states that I “Panicked”! I would like to know how anyone might react to a speeding patrol car coming at them in their lane head on.
    I am so frustrated as well as disheartened as I try to deal with all of this.
    I have obtained an Attorney as Butler County Sheriff’s insurance has denied the claim and it will now be presented to Butler County.They have 120 days to respond.
    But with the Investigation report completed by KHP in their favour I’m not sure justice will be served.
    The timing of watching your report is what brings me to write you with our story. I can only hope for something to come of it .
    We were all very fortunate that our injuries were just that.. and we had not lost our life as the young girl in your story. My heart and prayers go out to her family.
    Nita Wilkinson

    Cc: Bill & TonyaThurman
    (316) 806-5374
    This is a copy of the email my sister sent to reporter after seeing your story …


  2. Crosswalks are not always safer than jaywalking, so to blame the girl is absurd. She knew the neighborhood better than the no-it-all who insists “jaywalking is stupid.” , Many people die with the right of way they thought they had in crosswalks, where it can often be more difficult to navigate a street safely than halfway down the block, depending on the situation and traffic. The speeding cop could just as easily have killed the girl in the crosswalk.

  3. I knew Bhakta family for many years long ago. I lived at Frontier Motel room 120 long-term during part of 1980’s and part of 1990’s, and worked for Harry & Sue Patel at Royal Lodge 1992-1997. Sorry to read about this family’s loss, a terrible loss. I’m living in Norman Oklahoma now, age 59 as of March 5 this year, now on Social Security Disability benefits. Apartments complex I live at has been sold, will be bulldozed in August, my lease ending in May 2015, so I have to leave by then – can leave sooner – maybe March or April. I’m thinking about returning to Wichita, my home city, via Greyhound Bus. Maybe stay long-term at Frontier Motel again if weekly room single available. I always liked living there, and very much liked the Bhakta family. Good people. I was just doing online research and checking rates to see what I can afford by-the-week on disability benefits. No phone. If anyone with Bhakta family, Frontier Motel, reading this, please email me if possible via jimlantern1956@gmail.com

  4. Why does everyone back up the cops. Yes there are VERY few that are straight and honest. The rest wish is like 98% of them are no better than the criminals sitting in jail or prison. Only difference they are protected by a badge. I say take it off show ur true colors!

  5. Wow, unbelievable. Sorry for your loss, a beautiful little girl. My heart and prayers go out to family. They need to pay that family forever because no amount of money can make up for taking a child’s life.

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