A wanted man led law enforcement on a pursuit Monday night, then went into the Arkansas River and shot himself rather than being apprehended, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said. The body of Nicholas Lee Curtice, age 36, of rural Ellinwood, was recovered Tuesday morning by the Great Bend Fire Department’s swift water rescue team.
The Kansas Department of Corrections website shows Curtice was listed as an absconder on April 22. He was under the supervision of Central Kansas Community Corrections.
Sheriff’s deputies saw him inside a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche and attempted to stop it around 11 p.m. Monday in the vicinity of 5th and Odell St. in Great Bend, Bellendir stated in a news release Tuesday.
“The deputy pursued the suspect through the City of Great Bend and south toward the Arkansas River on Washington Street. The suspect vehicle struck the ravine near the north bank of the river, at which point it was disabled. Curtice exited the vehicle with a firearm and placed it to his head. The deputy ordered Curtis to drop the weapon repeatedly. He then waded into about four feet of water and fired a single round.”
The sheriff said Curtice did not threaten officers with the weapon. His body disappeared into the fast-moving water.
“Barton County Sheriff’s Deputies, Great Bend Police Officers and members of the Great Bend Fire Department searched for Curtice for several hours after the incident. We were unable to locate him due to the swift current and darkness,” the sheriff said. The search resumed at about 8 a.m. Tuesday. At about 10:45 a.m., members of the GBFD swift water rescue team located the body approximately 1,200 feet downstream from where Curtice had confronted law enforcement. A boat from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks assisted in the recovery.
The Barton County Corner, Dr. E.L. Jones, was notified and arrived at the scene. The death has been ruled a suicide.
The Sheriff’s Office was assisted Tuesday morning by the Great Bend Police Department, the Great Bend Fire Department, game wardens from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, aircraft support from the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Barton County Coroner.
KDOC information shows Curtice had a criminal history dating to at least 2005, with violations for drug possession, criminal damage to property and obstructing legal process. Most of those cases were no longer active, but in 2017 he was charged with aggravated battery. Then in April of 2018, with several outstanding warrants, he fled from a law enforcement officer in a pursuit that began near Great Bend and continued into Stafford County, hitting a deer along with way at about 80 mph, before deputies were able to get the car stopped. He was sentenced on Feb. 11 of this year.