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Woman was allegedly kidnapped by her husband then shot, paralyzed by Kansas deputies

In World
April 29, 2024

An Arizona woman who was allegedly kidnapped by her husband and shot by police says she was wrongly identified as a murder suspect and had her hands up, according to a new lawsuit filed against two deputies and their departments in southwest Kansas.

The January 2023 shooting, the lawsuit said, left her permanently paralyzed.

The woman – Amethyst Malone, of Phoenix – was shot by sheriff’s deputies Jan. 23, 2023, just outside Dodge City following a police chase set off by a pair of murders allegedly committed by her husband, Leroy Dotson Malone, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for Kansas on Friday.

“She was an innocent victim who was taken hostage and was ultimately shot by police,” said Amethyst Malone’s attorney, Tom Porto. “I just hope that there can be some sort of justice for her. She did not deserve what she ultimately received.”

He added: “These officers should have taken more time in arresting the suspect and realized that this was a hostage situation in which just shooting the bad guy perhaps wasn’t the best thing to do immediately because an innocent victim was in the car.”

Leroy Malone was killed during an exchange of gunfire with law enforcement after the truck Amethyst Malone was driving ran over spike strips and a deputy forced the vehicle into a ditch, according to the lawsuit and information released by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation after the incident. Three deputies, two from Ford County and one from Clark County, were also shot during the exchange.

Amethyst Malone, who the lawsuit said had been kidnapped by her husband two days prior, remained in the driver’s seat with her hands up, “clearly presenting herself as non-threatening” as deputies approached. Jared Mindrup and Heath Heston, with the Ford County Sheriff’s Office and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, respectively, fired into the truck, striking her multiple times, the lawsuit said. She collapsed to the ground, unable to move her body from the waist down, and was left with permanent injuries.

The lawsuit names Mindrup and Heston, as well as their departments, as defendants. Messages seeking comment for this story from sheriffs for both departments were not returned Friday.

Phoenix homicides

The Dodge City incident followed a shooting two days prior, on Jan. 21, 2023, in Phoenix. There, Leroy Malone allegedly shot and killed Amethyst Malone’s sister, Aysa Ribble, and Ribble’s boyfriend, Cameron Brown, before he kidnapped Amethyst Malone and fled the state, according to the lawsuit. Phoenix police issued a “Be on the Lookout” notice identifying Leroy Malone as being wanted for the homicides and saying that it was believed that he had kidnapped his wife and that they were traveling together, according to court documents.

On the day of the Dodge City shooting, Heston, a Clark County deputy, was notified during a call with an Oklahoma police chief about the Phoenix homicides and was told the suspect and a female hostage might be driving through Kansas. Heston memorialized the information in a handwritten note, according to the lawsuit.

A few minutes after the phone call with the Oklahoma police chief, Heston spotted a truck that matched the description of the one involved in the kidnapping and he and another law enforcement officer attempted to make contact. A male passenger got out of the vehicle, got back in, and the vehicle drove off. As others joined the pursuit, Heston radioed to law enforcement that the truck’s occupants “were suspects in a homicide out of Arizona,” the lawsuit said.

“At no time during the pursuit or subsequent stop did defendant Heston request that hostage negotiators assist or communicate to others in pursuit or on the scene that the Toyota’s female occupant had been kidnapped by the male suspect and identified as a victim of the male suspect, nor did defendant Heston communicate to others on the scene that the Toyota’s female occupant, who was herself a victim, posed no immediate threat to the safety of others,” Porto wrote in court documents.

After the truck came to a stop, Leroy Malone exchanged gunfire with law enforcement, and Heston and Mindrup fired into the truck, striking Amethyst Malone, the lawsuit said.

“Defendant Heston’s actions before, during, and after the confrontation implied to those on the scene, including those who returned gunfire upon the Toyota, that plaintiff was a dangerous homicide suspect rather than an innocent kidnapping victim,” Porto wrote. “And despite his having been told that plaintiff had been kidnapped, defendant Heston made no attempt to rescue plaintiff and/or cause others to consider plaintiff a kidnapping victim.”

The Star’s Katie Moore contributed reporting to this story.

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