Shoppers Ignored Woman Dying Of Stab Wound

AP, July 5, 2007

Stabbing victim LaShanda Calloway lay dying on the floor of a Wichita convenience store.

Instead of dialing 911, five shoppers stepped over Calloway to carry out purchases—and at least one used a cell phone to take pictures of the stabbing victim.

With a murder investigation ongoing, police aren’t releasing the store surveillance video, but they have described the June 23 incident.

“It was tragic to watch,” police spokesman Gordon Bassham said Tuesday. “The fact that people were more interested in taking a picture with a cell phone and shopping for snacks rather than helping this innocent young woman is, frankly, revolting.”

Calloway was stabbed in an altercation at the store, but it was not part of a robbery, Bassham said. It took about two minutes for someone to call 911 to report the crime, he said.

Calloway, 27, died later at a hospital.

Cherish M. McCullough, 19, has been charged with first-degree murder in the case. Another person, who turned himself in a few days later, had not been charged as of Tuesday, according to the Sedgwick County prosecutor’s office.

The Wichita Eagle first reported the killing in a brief.

But only later, after a call from a reader spurred Eagle columnist Mark McCormick to ask more questions, did information about the tape develop. McCormick said the reader complained about a policy that requires emergency medical personnel to wait until police secure a potentially dangerous crime scene before rendering aid.

Wondering whether police response time could have made a difference in the Calloway case, McCormick asked Police Chief Norman Williams about that policy and wrote a column about it.

In a follow-up conversation, the chief mentioned that the response time of passers-by may also be worth questioning, McCormick said.

“It’s on the video,” Williams was quoted in another of McCormick’s columns. “She laid on the floor while people continued to do their shopping. They’re taking photographs. That’s our frustration. They didn’t call immediately. If people would have been calling us, who knows what the outcome might have been.”

Bassham said the district attorney’s office would decide whether any of the shoppers could be charged.

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As difficult as it may be to understand how people could continue shopping while LaShanda Calloway lay dying in front of them, what should happen to those callous customers yields even fewer answers.

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This behavior certainly qualifies as disgusting, but is it legally punishable? Should it be?

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Police said people in the surveillance footage seemed coldly indifferent.

Was this indifference about the “Stop Snitching” campaign, an effort that urges people in some urban communities not to help police?

Did some of the patrons want to avoid police contact?

Could this be plain old fear?

One reader e-mailed to say that with gang members shooting not only each other but innocent people, why should anyone feel obligated to get involved in a situation such as Calloway’s?

“I, for one, would not,” the reader said. “I prefer to walk away than to be lying next to them when the coroner gets there.”

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