News

Kansas police officer, who shot and killed 17-year-old boy during a wellness check in 2018, won’t face federal civil rights charges

On Friday, federal prosecutors announced that they will not pursue criminal civil rights charges against a Kansas police officer who fatally shot a teenager in 2018 during a wellness check. The officer had been under investigation for possible civil rights violations.

The decision was made almost two years after an investigation was opened into the killing of John Albers, 17, whose death in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park reignited the national outcry over police use of excessive force. The decision was made almost two years after the investigation was opened.

According to a statement released by the Department of Justice, “at this time, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer knowingly committed a violation of the federal criminal civil rights act.” “More specifically, the evidence does not clear the high bar that the Supreme Court has set for reaching this threshold, and as a result, the department has decided to terminate its inquiry into this incident,”

At the time of the shooting, the officer who was shot, Clayton Jenison, had been working for the Overland Park Police Department for close to two years. In the end, he decided to step down from his position, despite the fact that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe had exonerated him of any misconduct and offered him a severance payout worth $70,000.

When Howe made the statement that no charges would be filed, he released the video from the dashcam and indicated that Jenison, who claimed he feared for his life, was justified in his conduct when he opened fire 13 times. Howe also said that the dashcam video would be made public.

However, Albers’ parents have long since contested the police department’s account on what took place, and they have criticized the investigation conducted by local prosecutors as being prejudiced and incompetent.

The Albers family has stated in a statement that they feel the FBI performed a “thorough and impartial assessment,” despite the fact that no federal charges have been brought against anyone.

The family expressed their gratitude to the professionals at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their “transparency,” “empathy,” and “compassion,” which helped them feel supported and honored John. “I want to reiterate that this is not the treatment that we received from our local law enforcement or from the officials of our city, who chose to dishonor our son.”

It wasn’t until April 2021 that the city of Overland Park released a redacted 500-page report along with photos, videos of additional dashcam footage, and an interview conducted with Jenison after the shooting. Albers’ parents had been pushing for the files in the case to be made public for some time, and they finally succeeded in doing so. In addition, the NBC affiliate in Kansas City, Missouri, KSHB, has filed a lawsuit against Overland Park in order to obtain access to same investigation files.

The files contained social media posts and diary entries written by Albers, a junior in high school, that gave the impression that he was battling with concerns related to his mental health.

On January 20, 2018, the police were summoned to his residence when a friend expressed concern that he may be intoxicated and feeling suicidal, adding that he had threatened to kill himself with a knife. The friend said that he had made the threat to the friend.

When Albers received the call, it was just before twilight, and he was home alone himself because the rest of his family had gone out to eat.

Videos captured by dashcams and a security camera belonging to a neighbor showed Jenison and another cop arriving at the residence. They waited outside for a few minutes without knocking or introducing themselves, and they did not identify themselves when they did so. After some time, the garage door of the house opened, and Jenison removed his handgun from its holster and walked toward the door. At the same time, the minivan that Albers was driving started to reverse out gently and in a straight manner.

In response, Jenison aimed his handgun at Albers and yelled, “Stop, stop, stop.” Jenison, who was standing to the right of the van, then fired two shots in Albers’ direction.

The adolescent was hit by one or both of the bullets, which “incapacitated him and rendered him unable to manage the minivan,” according to the Albers’ allegations in the lawsuit that they filed against the city and Jenison on behalf of their family.

The car came to a stop, but then quickly accelerated while going backwards, completing a U-turn in the driveway before backing up. According to the report and the dashcam video, Jenison fired 11 more shots after which the minivan pushed forward, past another police car that had just approached, and coasted in neutral into the driveway of a residence across the street. All of this occurred after Jenison had fired the first shot.

After his death, Albers was subjected to an autopsy, which revealed that he had been struck by six gunshots. According to the findings of the toxicological study, he had not been under the influence of any substances, including alcohol or drugs.

Jenison stated, during an interview with investigators that took place after the shooting, that he had taken cover outside of the home because he didn’t know if Albers would “self-harm or if he also has homicidal tendencies.” Jenison was referring to Albers’s history of committing acts of violence against himself.

The Department of Justice stated on Friday that the primary objective of its investigation was to determine whether or not federal prosecutors could prove that Jenison had deprived Albers of his constitutional rights, including by “willfully using unreasonable force against the person.” However, investigators stated that the federal government does not have a statute that criminalizes a police officer’s use of unreasonable force “if willfulness cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

According to a report from The Washington Post, the Albers family settled its complaint against Overland Park and Jenison in 2019 for $2.3 million, even though the city and Jenison did not admit liability and Overland Park said it settled to avoid the cost and length of a lawsuit. The Albers family had originally filed the complaint in 2014.

Following the decision made by the Department of Justice about the case, NBC News attempted to contact Jenison as well as the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office in order to obtain a statement.

In a response issued jointly by the city of Overland Park and the Overland Park Police Department, both entities stated that their respective officials did comply with the federal inquiry.

In their report, federal investigators stated that the decision not to bring charges in Albers’ death “does not alter the fact that his loss was an unnecessary tragedy.” They also highlighted the fact that a federal district court that was overseeing the lawsuit had ruled that a reasonable jury could conclude that the officer did use unreasonable force when he fired the first two shots at Albers. This was emphasized by the investigators.

According to the Department of Justice, the findings of the criminal investigation at the federal level “found no substantial evidence inconsistent with that determination.”

The Albers family issued a statement in response, in which they said, “we cannot ignore the underlying theme of the DOJ’s statement: local officials failed in their investigation, failed to bring viable state charges, and ignored the fact that a jury could definitely find that the officer used unreasonable force.” This was in reference to the fact that the local authorities failed to investigate the incident, failed to bring viable state charges, and ignored the fact that a jury could definitely

Since Albers’ murder, Overland Park has made significant changes to its police department and practices. These changes include the establishment of a distinct mental-health unit that will respond to calls and the prohibition of officers shooting into moving vehicles.

However, there is still work to be done, the Albers family noted. “But there is still work to be done.” We need a top-down culture of transparency and compassion in local government and law enforcement, and we need greater crisis-intervention training for all of our officers who stand up to serve us every day.

Most recently, federal prosecutors pursued federal civil rights charges against two current and two former police officers in Louisville, Kentucky, who were involved in a raid that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old medical worker. These charges were brought under the administration of Vice President Joe Biden.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for further information. The number to text is TALK and the number to call is 800-273-8255.

Related Articles

Back to top button