It's not human instinct to run into a dangerous situation — and yet, that's exactly what Harvey County Emergency Response Team members are called to do. When there is a high-risk law enforcement emergency — such as a hostage rescue or drug lab bust — ERT members are the ones who respond, despite the risk.
The team was honored during a special ceremony Thursday at the Harvey County Courthouse for their response to a stand-off in Wichita this summer.
"This was definitely not a run-of-the-mill call," said Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton. "These guys knew they were going into a huge danger risk. There were a lot of rounds being fired, but they held their ground."
On July 10, Jared Woosypiti — who had stabbed his girlfriend on July 4 — robbed a K-Mart pharmacy and fired shots inside the store. He then barricaded himself inside a Wichita apartment complex. Harvey County ERT members were called to the scene that night to help the Wichita Police Department SWAT team. Woosypiti fired on responders numerous times before the incident ended at 11 p.m. July 11.
Police Chief Jim Daily said the ERT members were well prepared to respond to the event. The team works closely with Wichita PD and other SWAT teams from the south-central region of the state. They help each other during risky situations, such as the Woosypiti stand-off.
"They train together and go to scenes together, and they work very, very closely," Daily said. "... They have a very deep-seated respect for one another."
Walton said it also is important to honor the spouses of ERT members, who must deal with the uncertainty and fear that comes when a loved one is sent into a hostile situation.
ERT team members know that risk, but they respond anyway. They have a 12-hour training day each month to help them prepare for events and keep their skills sharp, Daily said.
"We are very fortunate to have the caliber of people that we have here," he said.
Members honored at the ceremony include Sgt. Nef Torres, Newton PD; Master Patrolman Brian Rousseau, Newton PD; Officer Derek Botterweck, Newton PD; Officer Charles Shell, Newton PD; Deputy Jeff Van Horn, Harvey County Sheriff's Office; Deputy Carman Clark, Harvey County Sheriff's Office; Brett Butler, Newton Fire/EMS; Courtney Becker, director, Harvey County Communications; Don Gruver, Harvey County Communications; Brody Flavin, Harvey County Communications; Darren Ryan, Harvey County Communications; Molly Redinger, Harvey County Communications; Deputy Chief Eric Murphy, Newton PD; Lieutenant Craig Dunlavy, Newton PD; and Chief Norman William, Wichita PD.