LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A shooting that injured three Wichita police officers during the weekend was caused by “very unusual” circumstances but was not the result of a premeditated trap, Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said.
James Hathorn, 46, and Tiffany Vulgamore, 43, of Wichita, who were staying in what was supposed to be a vacant house, were arrested on Sunday after they were seen trying to get inside, police said.
They had been living at the house for weeks or months but were not there when the officers responded after the homeowner reported damage to the home.
A loaded shotgun without a trigger guard was crammed into the pocket of a recliner along with several other items, Ramsay said. Police believe the trigger was stuck on the chair’s fabric or an electric cord attached to a device on the chair, causing the gun to go off when officers moved the furniture.
About 400 pellets of birdshot were discharged, hitting all three officers in their legs. One of the officers was close to the chair and the others were 2-3 feet away. Ramsay said if the gun had been pointed higher “it could have been a much worse.”
Initially, officers thought some type of explosion, possibly even a bomb, had occurred. An investigation, with assistance from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, later determined what had happened.
“It was just a very unusual circumstance,” Ramsay said. “The chances of that happening like it did, I would say it’s pretty rare that would have happened the way it did.”
Drug paraphernalia was also found in the house, police said.
Two of the officers were treated at a hospital and released, and the third was expected home from the hospital later Monday. Ramsay said two of them will be able to return to work and the department is optimistic the third officer will also return.