TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Topeka police officials have released new surveillance video from a deadly beating and shooting on Christmas Eve at a liquor store on the city's east side. They also say they have a person of interest in another deadly shooting on Christmas night at an apartment complex.
On Monday, Captain Jerry Stanley, a spokesman for the Topeka Police Department, held a press conference revealing the latest information in both cases.
"We have pretty much a full scale incident command operation going on with about 25 detectives and officers from field operations and special operations out canvassing the neighborhoods, beating on doors trying to track down suspects and develop leads," he said.
On December 24th, 2011 at 1:40 PM, officers were called to the Hudson Liquor Store located at 810 SE 15th Street.
Upon arrival, responders found the clerk deceased behind the counter.
Stanley revealed that the victim is 41-year-old Matthew Hill. His name was not released over the weekend out of respect for his family during the holiday. The manager of the adjoining convenience store, Anthony Talbert, says Hill was the manager of the liquor store and was working alone at the time of the robbery on Christmas Eve, which is one of the busiest days of the year for liquor stores.
Captain Stanley says the suspect struck Hill with a crow bar, shot him and then stole money from the cash register and a gift box of Jim Beam bourbon. Surveillance video released by police Monday shows the suspect staggering into the liquor store, even missing the handle to the front door. Stanley says he was intoxicated at the time of the murder. The only footage being released is of the suspect making his way into the store, because of the brutality of the crime that unfolded inside.
"We have reason to believe that that suspect was intoxicated, possibly severely intoxicated, so we’re playing with that notion and playing with that lead and seeing if we can get anybody in the community, any of the local establishments such as bars, liquor stores or convenience stores might recognize him. If he has a drinking problem, he may frequent any of those places and we want to see if we can develop leads that way. We’re also canvassing the neighborhood immediately to the south. We’ve expanded that from what we’ve canvassed Saturday," Stanley said. The captain would not say Monday if the gun that was used in the deadly shooting belonged to the business or suspect.
The killer is described as a white male about 6 feet tall, slender build and wearing multi-colored pajama pants. He was last observed running south from the businesses. Witnesses stated that he stopped at least once to pull his pants up. Police belief he may live in the neighborhood in which he ran.
It was a really tragic event, especially around the holidays with family time, this is extremely tragic. We're all having trouble dealing with this incident. We're definitely keeping our heads up and praying for the victims families and trying to keep the forward progress going down here at our complex. Justice needs to be brought for us here and especially for his family. Justice is something that has to happen so that there's closure for everyone involved," Talbert said.
TPD issued a code red Monday in the form of a phone call, sending out a notification to residents about their search in the neighborhoods surrounding the liquor store and asking them to look at photos and the surveillance video posted by local media outlets in television broadcasts and in newspapers and on the news agencies' websites.
"Code Red is a mass media alert system that notifies people almost instantaneously. We have in cue everybody from SE 6th Street to 37th Street, from Topeka Boulevard to California Street to notify them that this suspect was last seen running in the area. We don’t have any belief that he got into a vehicle- he may have but we don’t have any indications of that at this time. Therefore, if he’s a person that normally walks in the neighborhood, his normal mode of transportation is by foot, maybe somebody will recall seeing him. We’re doing our best efforts to notify everybody and see if we can jog someone’s memory," Captain Stanley explained.
"There may be something about this individual- the way he's dressed, his mannerisms- that may spark somebody's memory to let us know who this guy might be. He runs by other open businesses, seemingly undaunted by being identified or seen. Maybe he's so high or intoxicated he doesn't think about that or doesn't care. But if this gentleman is part of that neighborhood or community south of that location, I think getting this out to the citizens to help us out is the best thing to do right now," Stanley added.
Anyone with information is asked to immediately call Detective George Henley 368-9491 or the Watch Commander through the communications center at 368-9551.
The Hudson Liquor Store is connected to the Phillip's Gas Station, making up the Hudson Crossing Complex. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, two clerks at the gas station's convenience store were shot during an armed robbery.
Kenneth M. Ray, Jr., 30, and Evette N. Vice, 32, continue to recover from their injuries. Ray was reportedly shot four times and Vice was shot twice.
An arrest in the first incident has not been made but police say the two violent shootings are not connected.
"The two employees from the first incident are recovering and going through therapy. Things are looking very positive for both of them so that is amazing how lucky we are that the situation isn't any worse. In the same breath that I say the outcome is positive for them, the second event is extremely devastating for us here at the complex, for the family for the neighborhood. Nobody likes to hear especially around the holidays that a man with a family is killed. It's awful," Anthony Talbert told WIBW.
As for the deadly shooting on Christmas night at an apartment complex on 5985 SW 22nd Park, police say they have identified a person of interest.
At 10 PM Sunday December 25th, officers were called to the Wanamaker Twenty-Two Apartments in reference to someone being shot. Before they arrived, the victim, 36-year-old James Sanders, had been taken to the hospital by a private vehicle where he passed away.
Captain Stanley says LaVance Thompson, 30, is now being called a person of interest, saying investigators need to talk to him. He says Sanders and Thompson both live in the same complex and got into an argument with one another when the shooting happened. A photo of Thompson is not being released.
"The relationship between the victim and suspect to the best of my knowledge indicates that they were merely both residents within the complex, not in the same apartment. An argument ensured, a handgun was produced, the shooting occurred," Stanley said during his press conference.
"We did locate the vehicle he left the scene in in the Oakland area but we need to talk to Mr. Thompson so if anybody knows his whereabouts, we would like to find him and talk to him," the captain added.
Anyone with information is urged to contact CID at 368-9400 and ask for Sergeant Volle.
Sanders' death marks the 14th murder in Topeka in 2011. Captain Stanley says there have been 16 homicides for the year to date- 14 have been murders and two cases are considered justified because they are self-defense in nature.