KSN Investigates: Who gets charged in child deaths?

WICHITA, Kansas – This is the second shooting this year involving a child getting their hands on a gun, but the surprising thing — what charges were filed, or in this case, not filed.

It’s the second time in a few months that Wichitans have heard the story – a child gets their hand on a gun and tragedy strikes.

This time, a 3-year-old shot himself in the chest.

The story rings similar to another earlier this year.

On April 29th, a North Wichita community was rattled after a 3 year old shot and killed a 19 month old with a gun found in a dresser.

“If your child gets to it, this is the outcome and it’s sad, it’s horrible that a child has to lose their precious, innocent life behind…an adults mistake,” said Kristen Salisbury.

Family members were home at the time of the April shooting, so some thought charges of child endangerment or at least neglect may be filed.

But after speaking to the District Attorney’s Office, KSN found out no charges were ever filed, saying the shooting was an accident.

Now, more questions are being raised after recent child deaths in Wichita, a rash of children being left in cars nationwide.

The most recent case here in Wichita.

The father who left that child in the car is now being charged with murder.

So why is there such a huge difference between the cases that end up with a child dead due to negligent behavior?

David Mattingly with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office says no two cases are alike.

“A single act does not always determine that’s negligence that’s where that history so could there be sometime there, so it’s not that investigators don’t want to make an arrest it’s that we have to follow the law and build a case and evidence and present it,” said Mattingly.

Wichita Police tell KSN news every arrest needs to be approved by a supervisor.

In regards to the most recent child death where a 3-year-old shot himself in the chest, police say they looked at the evidence and found it was not negligent behavior because the gun was put up high enough that it wasn’t easily accessible to the child.

“We look at each thing individually, we look at the case we look at the circumstances, the elements involving and we make our determination from there,” said Jeff Gilmore of the Wichita Police Department.

The Department for Children and Families often play a role in investigating cases involving children.

“We’re really looking at it from the child’s perspective of safety and well being and the law enforcement is looking at it more from the criminal legal side of things,” said Kristen Peterman of the DCF.

In Wichita, police say it’s a team effort when deciding to make an arrest before getting permission to from a supervisor.

The Sheriff’s Office has a slightly different protocol, Mattingly wonders why arrests aren’t always made quickly.

“Actually television shows like Law and Order show that detectives are constantly working with the district attorney’s office, then they’re going out, getting more interview getting little more evidence, go back to the district attorney’s office and provide the info, building the case,” said Mattingly.

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