Wichita to pay $262,500 after police stood outside as man stabbed roommate up to 50 times

./The Wichita Eagle

The Wichita City Council is set to approve a six-figure payout related to a 2019 incident where police officers stood outside of a house as a man killed his roommate by stabbing her up to 50 times.

The family of the victim, Devin Andrea Cook, had sued the city in state court over officers’ failure to intervene during the deadly assault.

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting includes the authorization of a $262,500 payment as “full settlement of all claims against the officers and the City of Wichita” arising from a domestic violence incident on Nov. 23, 2019.

That’s the day that police responded to a phone call from Jason McCaleb, who wanted his roommate, 28-year-old Cook, to vacate their south Wichita residence.

After speaking with both roommates, police determined that they could not make Cook leave immediately because she had “established residency” at the house, including keeping clothes there and having house keys.

Moments after officers suggested to McCaleb that he talk to his landlord about evicting Cook, McCaleb used “a folding blade knife” to repeatedly stab Cook, according to an arrest affidavit. It says police “were standing outside” after talking to the roommates about their living arrangement when they “heard yelling coming from the house.”

Officers were close enough to hear furniture being thrown and to hear Cook begging for her life. “Jason stop.” “You’re hurting me.” “You’re killing me,” they heard Cook say, according to the affidavit.

According to Sedgwick County District Court records that were recently unsealed, rather than immediately attempting to re-enter the residence, officers on the scene waited for more experienced back-up to arrive.

The officers “attempted to make contact (with McCaleb and Cook) but no one would answer the door and the disturbance continued,” the affidavit says. “The officers told the occupants (of the house) they were going to force the door and the male (McCaleb) voice said he was coming to the door.”

When McCaleb opened the door, he had blood on his hands and clothes. Cook was lying on the kitchen floor. She died hours later at St. Francis hospital.

McCaleb, now 48, pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder. In 2020, he was sentenced to life in prison.

The Wichita Police Department did not respond to reporters’ questions about whether officers were concerned for Cook’s safety before they left the house.

During police questioning, McCaleb told investigators “he heard the officers knocking at his door but did not want them to stop him from killing Ms. Cook. He said he was trying to kill Ms. Cook,” according to the affidavit.

Cook’s autopsy found that she had up to 50 “sharp force injuries” on her body.

The City Council’s staff report states that “Due to the uncertainty and risk of an adverse judgment at trial, the Law Department recommends the settlement.” It says the settlement is not an admission of liability on the part of the city or the officers involved.

The payout is on Tuesday’s consent agenda, meaning it will be approved without discussion unless a member pulls it off for a separate vote.

City spokesperson Megan Lovely told The Eagle that the officers who were outside the house during the fatal incident are still employed with the department.

“Chief Sullivan has been focused since his arrival on making WPD a leading agency in many areas, including tactical response,” Lovely said. “All commissioned officers now go through tactical engagement training quarterly. The department regularly trains employees on high-profile incidents across the country and refreshers of WPD policy to ensure officers are best prepared to readily respond to high-stress situations.”