District Attorney: “Evidence presented is insufficient to support the filing of charges” in alleged racial incident

One day after Wichita State police handed over the findings of their investigation of Student Body President Paige Hungate’s parents to the Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, his office determined not to file charges in the case.

According to a Wednesday statement to WSU Police Chief Sara Morris, Bennett’s office found the “evidence presented is insufficient to support the filing of charges.”

Earlier this month, former Wichita State Student Body President Joseph Shepard announced he was pressing charges against Hungate’s parents, Trent Hungate and Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, for an incident that occurred following a farewell speech Shepard delivered at the end-of-the-year Student Government banquet.

Hungate’s parents, who each work at local high schools, were under criminal investigation for battery and anti-black, hate “fighting words.”

Shepard said Hungate’s mother, Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, approached him after his speech because she had taken exception to his speech. He said they then moved the conversation outside of Beggs Ballroom, where the conversation escalated to an argument.

Shepard said Steffes-Sundquist described his speech as “divisive” and an attack on her daughter.

Shepard said Steffes-Sundquist raised her voice while continuing to express animosity toward him, and with tensions building, former Student Body Vice President Taben Azad stepped in, telling Shepard to leave the altercation. Agreeing to leave, Shepard responded to Steffes-Sundquist saying, “Act your age, not your shoe size and then maybe, moving forward, we can have a conversation.”

Shepard said as Steffes-Sundquist left, she mumbled a racial slur directed at him.

Multiple sources that witnessed the altercation confirmed Steffes-Sundquist then directed a racial epithet toward Shepard. After the argument, Hungate’s father, Trent Hungate, “charged” Shepard, bumping Shepard’s mother, who is listed in the police report as a victim, in the shoulder, multiple witnesses said.

“He had intent to physically harm me,” Shepard told The Sunflower the day after the altercation.

Bennett said the alleged crimes each lacked sufficient evidence to “establish beyond a reasonable doubt” that a crime occurred.

“Regarding the allegation of verbal disorderly conduct, the accounts of witnesses who would have been within earshot were not consistent,” Bennett said in his statement.

“Regarding the allegation of assault, witnesses described a situation in which third parties stood between and, attempted to remove both the alleged victim and the alleged suspect who engaged in a verbal altercation.”

“Regarding the allegation of battery, insufficient evidence exists to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the allegation that the alleged suspect intentionally caused physical contact with the bystander or that the alleged suspect recognized the risk of physical contact and then recklessly disregarded the same.”

— — —

Read the full statement here: District Attorney Marc Bennett’s statement on the May 4 SGA Banquet incident