The Barton County Sheriff’s Office must now reopen its investigation into an alleged sexual assault that occurred on a Great Bend High School bus involving members of the GBHS swim team Feb. 3. The action was necessary following the Kansas Bureau of Investigations decision not to accept the case.
“As with any investigation, the time frame until completion is not known,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said. “But, the case is a high priority with our office.”
The Feb. 3 allegation was reported to the BCSO and the Great Bend Police Department on Feb. 6, involving a bus ride returning from a swim meet in Salina, Bellendir said. This was the same day as similar allegations were made against team members on a Feb. 6 bus ride home from Manhattan.
When the reports were made to Barton County authorities on Feb. 6, it was unclear where the alleged assaults took place. So both were forwarded to the Ellsworth County Sheriff’s Office.
Ellsworth County officers determined that only the Feb. 6 allegation took place in Ellsworth County. They contacted Saline County about the Feb. 3 incident.
However, the Saline County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation determined that the incident may have actually occurred in Barton County, Bellendir said. They contacted Barton County in late February.
This is when Bellendir saw potential jurisdictional issues and contacted the KBI.
But, Bellendir said his office was notified Friday by the KBI that the Bureau had declined investigation. In a letter dated March 3, the KBI cited excessive case load due to the Hesston shooting incident, as well as a substantial current case load.
Jurisdictional issues aside, Bellendir said they will pursue the matter as if it took place in Barton County. “It depends on where the investigation goes.”
A parent of the boy allegedly assaulted on Feb. 3 filed a formal report with the Saline County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, Feb. 20.
This is a separate case from the one being handled by Ellsworth County Authorities.