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Family of Kansas teen fatally shot by police during wellness check blasts investigation as “victim blaming”

An investigative report and beforehand unseen movies from the 2018 demise of a Kansas teenager shot multiple times by police during a wellness check had been launched Thursday by town of Overland Park β€” much-needed transparency, his household stated, after greater than three years of demanding that recordsdata within the case be made public.

The redacted 500-page report, together with images and movies of police dashcam footage and interviews after the taking pictures, have shed some gentle into why Overland Park police Officer Clayton Jenison stated he fired his weapon 13 occasions as John Albers, 17, backed a minivan out of his household’s storage.

“I thought he was going to run me over, man,” Jenison could be heard repeating in a single video, as he sobbed and breathed closely after the taking pictures.

But Albers’ mother and father consider the recordsdata nonetheless do not clarify the complete story, and questioned Friday why there wasn’t a scene diagram and reconstruction report of the taking pictures, and why though Jenison’s coaching historical past was included, no efficiency opinions or extra details about the officer’s employment had been accessible.

“This ‘investigation’ contains little information about the officer that fired his weapon 13 times or his performance as a police officer,” Steve and Sheila Albers stated in a press release.

The taking pictures of Albers has remained within the highlight in Kansas, a state the place police information are largely saved underneath wraps, even when after a case is closed. The FBI in September confirmed that it has opened a federal civil rights investigation into the police taking pictures; the evaluation stays pending.

One month after the Jan. 20, 2018, taking pictures, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe launched some dashcam video when he introduced that Jenison, who stated he feared for his life, was justified and would not be criminally charged. At the time, the police division didn’t have body-worn cameras.

The newly launched recordsdata embrace social media posts and journal entries during which John Albers, a highschool junior, expressed psychological well being struggles. Police had been known as to the Albers’ dwelling when a buddy was involved that he could have been intoxicated and feeling suicidal and had threatened to stab himself with a knife.

“John may not have been perfect, but he was deeply loved,” the Albers stated of their assertion. “He deserved an investigation that was competent, unbiased and backed by evidence. This was not an investigation, it was victim blaming.”

The metropolis of Overland Park, in its choice to make the recordsdata public, stated it had obtained quite a few requests for the report, however constantly denied them as a result of the recordsdata had “sensitive personal information” and their launch “can have a serious negative impact on future investigations.”

In January, NBC affiliate KSHB in Kansas City, Missouri, sued the city for the discharge of the investigative recordsdata associated to the case. The metropolis on the time sought dismissal of the lawsuit, which stays pending.

But in a shock transfer this week, town stated it will launch a redacted report and a few proof.

“As a result of this ongoing discussion, misinformation has been circulated resulting in a serious erosion of public trust over this period of time,” town stated in a press release, including that the withholding of the report “has become an obstacle to restoring the community’s trust and confidence in the City of Overland Park, its officials, and the Overland Park Police Department.”

Neither the police division nor the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office instantly responded to requests for remark about how the Albers characterised the investigation, which was dealt with by the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team. Sean Reilly, a spokesman for town, stated Friday {that a} 3D scan of the crime scene is being retained by Johnson County’s crime lab.

“Our sympathy goes out to the family and we respect their perspective,” Reilly wrote in an e mail. “However, the City concurs with the District Attorney that the officer reasonably feared for his life and it was a lawful use of force.”

Albers’ household has lengthy questioned the police’s narrative of the evening the teen was killed.

Just earlier than nightfall, Albers was dwelling alone whereas his household went out for dinner. That’s when a involved buddy contacted police for a welfare check, in accordance with a federal complaint filed by the household in opposition to town and Jenison. Albers was recognized to police as a result of of previous home incidents, and, in accordance with the grievance, police knew he “potentially had mental health problems.”

Dashcam movies and a neighbor’s safety digital camera confirmed Jenison and one other officer arriving on the dwelling. They first spoke for a couple of minutes exterior and didn’t knock on the entrance door or establish themselves. Eventually, the household’s storage door swung open, and Jenison unholstered his weapon and moved towards the door as the minivan, which Albers was driving, beganwas about to again reverse out .

It was then, as the minivan backed out slowly and in a straight line. , that Jenison reacted, aiming his weapon and yelling, “Stop, stop, stop.” Jenison, who was standing to the appropriate of the van, fired twice towards Albers; the household’s grievance contended that one or each of the bullets struck {the teenager}, “incapacitating him and rendering him unable to control the minivan.”

The automotive stopped however then accelerated in reverse, making a U-turn within the driveway and backing up. Jenison fired 11 extra pictures, and the minivan pulled ahead, previous one other police automotive that had simply approached, and coasted in impartial into the driveway of a house throughout the road, in accordance with the report and dashcam video.

An post-mortem report later confirmed that six bullets had struck Albers: within the head, the higher neck, the left shoulder, the appropriate shoulder, the again torso and the decrease lip. A toxicology report indicated that he had not been underneath the affect of medication or alcohol.

In interviews with investigators 4 days after the taking pictures, Jenison, who had been with the Overland Park Police Department for about two years, defined: why he fired his weapon.

“I unholstered my service weapon. I approached the garage door. The vehicle started backing out. I told him to stop. He didn’t listen to my commands. I shot.,” Jenison stated.

The automotive then went in reverse and did a U-turn, and Jenison stated he fired once more as he believed the automotive was going to hit him.

Jenison stated dispatchers had warned officers arriving on the scene that Albers had been chopping himself and posted on social media that he had threatened to hurt himself. The officer added that he was new to that patrol space and could not keep in mind if he had ever been to that dwelling.

He stated that he took cowl exterior of the house as a result of “I don’t know if he’s self-harm or if he also has homicidal tendencies.”

β€œTo protect me, I move closer to the house, so that if he comes out of the garage or front door I can control the situation.”

Sheila Albers stated Friday there was no proof to point out that her son was homicidal or that officers ought to have gone in believing her son would commit violence in opposition to them.

Howe, the Johnson County district legal professional, stated in 2018 that he determined to not cost Jenison as a result of “these are fluid and instantaneous decisions that a law enforcement officer must make, which makes the job so difficult.”

James Nolan, a professor and chair of sociology at West Virginia University, who’s a former police officer in Wilmington, Delaware, stated this case highlights a police mindset that routinely assumes somebody is harmful.

“Seeing things the wrong way can create great harm, even though the intentions are good,” Nolan stated. “That’s why all around this country this is going on and officers are making these great errors. Suddenly, a car becomes a deadly weapon even if the person is only trying to get away.”

“People are not looking at the police and saying, ‘I’m glad you’re here. I’m depressed. Help me,'” Nolan stated. “In fact, it’s just the opposite.”

The Albers ended up settling the case in opposition to Overland Park and Jenison in 2019 for $2.3 million, The Washington Post reported, though town and Jenison didn’t admit legal responsibility and Overland Park stated it settled to keep away from the price and size of a lawsuitthe litigation.

City officers confirmed in June that Jenison obtained $70,000 as half of a severance bundle when he agreed to resign, an quantity paid regardless of the actual fact the Johnson County dDistrict aAttorney had ‘s Office cleared him of wrongdoing.

The metropolis stated the settlement was “in the best interest of the community” and will stop Jenison from doubtlessly preventing for reinstatement to the drive as a result of there was “no just cause to terminate” him and keep away from a pricey lawsuit. Officials additionally stated Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez by no means communicated with Jenison concerning the settlement nor inspired him to enter into it.

In March, Sheila Albers filed a grievance in opposition to Donchez to a governor-appointed state commission that oversees regulation enforcement coaching in Kansas. She stated Donchez made false statements in reporting how Jenison left the drive when he known as the officer’s departure from the division a “voluntary resignation under ordinary circumstances and for personal reasons.”

The metropolis stated “we will cooperate fully with any investigation into the matter.” Neither Donchez nor Jenison might instantly be reached for remark Friday. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training has stated it might’t verify or deny an investigation.

Nolan stated police businesses and states should work towards reforms that permit extra public scrutiny of complaints in opposition to officers and entry to inside recordsdata in order that communities can higher belief of their native regulation enforcement.

Kansas’ public open information regulation permits police departments and county prosecutors to resolve when to launch data β€” a apply supported by some officers who consider releasing names and different particulars can ould have an effect on a case if it goes to trial.

But, Nolan stated, “the more information you put out there is a sign you want to be transparent. That’s how you can build cooperation with the community instead of conflict.”

If you or somebody you realize is in danger of suicide, please name the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, textual content TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for extra sources.

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