Archive for Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Shots send shock in west Baldwin

October 17, 2001

A Sunday evening shooting in West Baldwin left one man hospitalized, another temporarily jailed and threw a mostly quiet neighborhood into fear.

Douglas County Sheriff's Department investigators are still trying to piece the evening's events on Bison Court together. Until that investigation is complete, the alleged shooter is free.

"We're going to work further on the investigation," said Kathy Tate, the sheriff's department's public information officer. "It will be a couple of days before we get everyone interviewed and everything sorted out. He (the alleged shooter) was not charged. No. 1, I don't know why he wasn't charged and No. 2, if I did, I couldn't say."

The District Attorney's office has declined to say why charges weren't filed against the Baldwin man, who was released Monday afternoon after spending the night in Douglas County Jail.

The injured man, 31-year-old Steven Swafford, was to be released from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., either Tuesday night or today. Swafford was hit by three shots, one to the hip and two in the arms, but none of the wounds were life-threatening, officials said. He was taken to the hospital by Life Flight Helicopter Sunday.

In the meantime, a once tranquil Baldwin neighborhood lives in fear, residents there say.

"I'm scared," said Martha Wright, who lives on Bison Court, just one house down from where Sunday's shooting occurred. "I'm shocked he was released and I'm scared.

"The neighbors are afraid to go outside," said Wright. "We don't go outside by ourselves anymore. Parents are not allowing their children to play in their yards. I don't understand what the District Attorney is thinking to let him come back to our neighborhood."

Other residents in the area, which is south of the Midland Railway Depot, have said the neighborhood is mostly a wonderful place to live, but there has been some trouble, especially recently. But, all of that changed dramatically Sunday when at least four shots were fired around 7 p.m.

"You could not have a nicer place for kids and I doubt if there's a greater per capita of kids anywhere in Baldwin," said Mark Kirk, who lives on Mustang Drive. "It was a very social neighborhood. It's not that now."

Kirk said he was aware of scattered problems in the neighborhood, but was shocked when it escalated to gun play Sunday.

"When I heard the gunshots, I thought they were coming from the pasture area to the south of us," he said. "It never occurred to me that someone would be shooting in our neighborhood."

Kirk didn't know what was going on until he heard the helicopter land to take Swafford away.

What led to the shooting is still being officially investigated by the sheriff's department. However, eye witnesses indicate it was the result of a long-standing neighborhood dispute involving children that got out of hand. Regardless of the cause, it resulted in the alleged shooting.

Baldwin police responded just before 7 p.m. and arrested the alleged shooter who was then taken to Douglas County Jail. Baldwin Police Chief Steve Butell said he asked the sheriff's department to conduct the investigation and all Baldwin reports on the matter were turned over. Butell declined further comment.

"I'm not saying anything more until this is finished," Butell said.

Wright and others had nothing but praise for the Baldwin police.

"The neighbors are all pleased with how the Baldwin police force reacted and took care of us as neighbors," said Wright. "They responded quickly. They gathered together and talked things through and then took action.

"I was really pleased with Colleen's (Sgt. Larson) response and the time she took with us," she said. "If we had questions, they were answered."

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