Franklin County Attorney declares fatal officer-involved shooting was justified

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OTTAWA, Kan. – An officer-involved shooting that left an unarmed teen dead was ruled justified Tuesday by Franklin County Attorney Stephen Hunting.

The shooting occurred on August 23 in the parking lot of Orscheln ‘s Farm and Home store. Officers shot and killed 18-year-old Joseph Jennings in the parking lot.

Hunting said Tuesday in a news conference that officers were lawful in their use of deadly force. He released a 10-page report to the public detailing the nearly 10-minute long event. According to the review, officers tried to get Jennings to show his hands, but after numerous attempts he wouldn’t.

“A few of the officers who had previous contact with Mr. Jennings called him by name and said ‘Joe, you’re not in any trouble, please show us your hands,'” Hunting said. “Their commands to Jennings were very simple and clear,” he said. “Show us your hands, just show me your hands, you’re not in any trouble just show me your hands.”

The report said the incident started when Franklin County dispatch received a call about a man waving a gun around in the parking lot. The caller said the man was in a blue shirt with white pants and kept putting the gun back in his waistline.

READ: Written findings on Joseph Jennings officer-involved shooting

“What the dispatcher didn’t know at that time was that Mr. Jennings was describing himself,” Hunting said.

The dispatcher asked the caller his name, and the report said he identified himself as Mr. Joseph Jennings.

“It was relayed to her by Mr. Jennings that this individual had a handgun, that he had cocked the weapon, that he had placed it in his waistband, covering it with his shirt,” Hunting said.

Jennings hung up on dispatchers once officers arrived on the scene. The investigation shows when officers arrived to the parking lot they asked Jennings to show his hands. It said Jennings kept one hand down in his waistband, one hand in the air and began to walk away from officers. That’s when officers pulled out their rifles, the report said. It said Jennings had his hand consistent with how someone would hold or conceal a gun.

Hunting said the event escalated when a man and woman who identified themselves as the aunt and uncle of Jennings arrived.

“They arrived at the scene, this greatly complicated matters and it made the scene quite chaotic,” he said.

Hunting said one officer feared it could turn into a hostage situation. After Jennings still wouldn’t show police his hands, the report said they attempted to tazer him, but missed. Hunting said officers then shot Jennings two different times with a beanbag gun, but Jennings still wouldn’t reveal he didn’t have a weapon. Then, Hunting said Jennings took one hand out of his waist pocket and extended it quickly toward officers.

“It was extended in a way in which we all recognize and know as when someone draws a gun,” Hunting said.

Five officers fired, killing Jennings. He was hit by eight or nine bullets Hunting said. The report said a total of 29 shell casings, two bean bags, three bean bag shells and one tazer cartridge were recovered at the scene.

The report said officers saw Jennings holding what was believed to be a black object. The investigation found that object was most likely a black pair of sunglasses. Hunting said investigators will not characterize this event as a ‘suicide by cop’ or as a suicide.

The report said Jennings was treated at the scene by an officer and members of the Franklin County Ambulance Department. He later died at a local hospital because of multiple gunshot wounds. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation was contacted by the Ottawa Chief of Police and the Franklin County Sheriff to conduct the investigation.



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