Accused Herington cops went in house for code violation
Court documents indicate Herington police chief and assistant chief allegedly forced their way into a Herington residence to investigate a city code violation.
The chief has since resigned and the assistant is on extended leave.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the 13th St. residence that Chief John Matula and assistant Curtis Tyra allegedly forced their way into had been condemned March 10.
The householder told Kansas Bureau of Investigation she had been able to enter the house to work on it but not to sleep there.
When she went to the house May 18, she noticed a police car parked in an alley. She found the back door forced open and a deadbolt broken.
She went inside and encountered Matula and Tyra. Matula told her to leave or she would be arrested for trespassing, the affidavit says.
She returned later with her boyfriend and found that the house appeared to have been searched. Many things were out of place. She also found a security camera from the house broken and lying in a street.
Fire chief Andrew Avantagiato, who was the city’s code enforcement officer and health officer, told investigators he’d asked police to ensure no one would be there while a new “condemned” sign was posted. He said he had been concerned because of suspected drug dealing there and that signs had been taken down several times.
Avantagiato said when he arrived with new code enforcement officer Chrystal Parris, Matula and Tyra had forced entry into the house. They told him no one was inside but mentioned the householder had shown up while they were there.
Matula, 36, is charged in Dickinson County District Court with criminal damage to property for allegedly damaging doors, a deadbolt, and a camera belonging to Donna McCullough-Barta. He additionally is charged with trespass for entering the home.
He could face up to six months in jail and or a fine of up to $1,000 for each charge.
Tyra, 43, is charged with criminal trespass. Both men hired Emporia lawyer Monte L. Miller to defend them and are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 14.
Matula was hired in November, and Tyra was promoted to assistant chief in January.
Matula resigned the day charges were filed. Matula and Tyra could lose their law enforcement certification.
Doug Schroeder, executive director of Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training, said decisions about revoking an officer’s certification were based on officers’ conduct, not criminal charges or convictions.
“We typically wait for the criminal proceedings, but we do our investigation,” he said.
Four other police officers and a prior police chief are among witnesses listed for the prosecution.
Last modified Sept. 23, 2021