Chief speaks

Chief Mike Wilson of the Atchison Police Department speaks to the City of Atchison municipal governing body on March 19 at City Hall, 515 Kansas Ave.

One year after enactment as Kansas law, aggravated domestic battery, a felony offense, has resulted in one conviction in Atchison County despite 16 men arrested for the crime.

The aggravated domestic battery law went into effect July 1, 2017. The law relates to actions like strangulation, choking, and/or physical blocking in a way to restrict a person’s breathing or airways during a domestic violence incident.

Chief Mike Wilson said his department has investigated felony crimes associated with domestic violence throughout the years like aggravated battery and aggravated assault. It wasn’t until 2017 that a specific crime identified with domestic violence — aggravated domestic battery — was classified as a felony.

Within the first two weeks on the books, Atchison police made two arrests that resulted in felony aggravated battery charges: Eddie Thomas Jr., 54, was arrested July 2, 2017 and on July 9, 2017 Jeremiah E. Crouch was arrested. Both incidents involved choking. Both crimes were reduced to misdemeanors.

To date, Lee Lunsford Jr. is the only person convicted as charged on one count aggravated domestic battery that occurred March 8. The recently sentenced Lunsford was transported to Aug. 9 to El Dorado Correctional Facility. Lunsford’s earliest possible release date is Dec. 1, 2019. The complaint against Lunsford involved choking a 31-year-old female in a rude or angry manner. Lunsford pleaded no contest to the county March 23 in district court.

Atchison County Attorney Jerry Kuckelman said often times in domestic situations that while suspected aggressors are arrested and subsequently charged with the felony, the victims might request a different charge.

Some want it pursued to the fullest extent of the law and want to follow through with a conviction, Kuckelman said. It is not uncommon for some to request leniency because of family member involvement.

There was one felony aggravated battery case filed against Keith Gregory Allen that did proceed to a jury trial in January. The trial resulted in an acquittal for Allen.

A case against Brandon M. Ross stemmed from his arrest by police in mid-March in connection with a domestic violence incident resulted in a dismissal of the charges that included felony aggravated domestic battery in June.

Atchison Police Department officers respond to an average of 275 domestic violence calls in a year, Wilson said. In 2017 the police had eight aggravated domestic battery cases that reflected 3 percent of the 240 domestic violence arrests for the year.

Wilson said as of Aug. 1 there were eight aggravated domestic battery cases registered in the police blotter thus far in the current year represent 4 percent.

The Atchison County Sheriff’s Office has logged in two aggravated domestic cases on its blotter since the law went into effect. One centered on the arrest of Nathaniel E. Wiggins in connection with a July 18, 2017, incident in a rural part of the county that involved choking. The complaint was subsequently amended to domestic battery, a misdemeanor offense.

The second arrest for county law enforcement is that of Dalbert Williams on July 7 whose complaint alleges choking of a male family member during an argument. Williams’s case is pending. He is tentatively scheduled for a hearing of evidence at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, in district court.

Kansas statutes specific to identifying domestic violence crimes are not new; they have been in existence for many years, Wilson said. Since the early 1990s law enforcement agencies have been required to adopt policies regarding domestic call responses, investigations and domestic violence cases.

Unrelated charges of felony aggravated domestic battery were initially filed in district court against seven other men since the statute was instituted.

Howard L. Hooper IV, Larry Crowley, Steven M. Ruckstuhl, Jeffrey D. Fultz, Brandon M. Ross, Jerome S. Maxwell, Deandre J. Turner-Fults, Phillip M. Roles and Akeem Jerome Woessner all initially faced complaints filed against them that included the felony aggravated domestic battery. The felonies have been reduced to misdemeanor domestic battery offenses.

Steven D. Wakole was initially arrested June 7 for aggravated domestic battery and domestic battery, but only the one misdemeanor count domestic battery was formally charged.

David W. Chapman was arrested by Atchison police in connection with an aggravated domestic battery incident that occurred July 8, 2017, related to restricted breathing. Police alleged Chapman put his knee atop a 42-year-old female victim’s throat until she lost consciousness. Chapman was on parole when the incident occurred. During September 2017, Chapman was ordered back to prison for parole violation and to serve a new sentence on an unrelated matter.

Chapman is currently incarcerated at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility was sent back to prison for parole violation and a new sentence on an unrelated matter.

“The aggravated domestic battery statute identifies a crime that elevates above misdemeanor domestic battery but may not reach the statutory requirements for aggravated battery,” Wilson communicated by email to the Globe. “Assault, battery, domestic battery, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated assault, and aggravated battery are all possible charges resulting in law enforcement investigations of domestic violence.”

Concerning another domestic violence incident that occurred Oct. 5, 2017, Michael R. Brockett was arrested, convicted by a jury, and subsequently ordered to serve time in prison for aggravated sexual battery. The crime, a violent interaction, was committed in a way to overcome the female victim by force or fear. Brockett resided at same address.

Mary Meyers can be reached at mary.meyers@npgco.com.

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