Missouri State Highway Patrol ready for expanded role investigating police shootings

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — On Saturday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol took over a pair of investigations where a police officer or deputy killed a person.

The first involved the stop of an armed carjacking suspect at 23rd and Topping in Kansas City.

Some of the same investigators from MSHP’s Division of Drug and Crime Control would then go to Pettis County where a deputy shot and killed a woman during a traffic stop. Officials have now determined Hannah Fizer was not armed. 

Troop A, which covers 13 counties around Kansas City has seven investigators who help on homicide and officer-involved shooting investigations. They aren’t the same troopers who might pull you over.

“The public is used to we are on the side of the road working traffic, working crashes. But this is another aspect of the patrol that maybe is not well known,” Sgt. Bill Lowe said.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol took over 33 officer-involved shooting investigations in mostly rural counties last year. They’ve worked 23 so far already this year, including nine in the region based in Lee’s Summit.

For the first time they are now handling Kansas City’s investigations.

A former KCPD major who now teaches criminology supports the change.

“I think in the long run it’s good for both sides from the police agency, even if you do your best work and you believe you’ve covered all the areas that need to be covered,” said John Hamilton, Park University’s criminology chair. “Anything that is inadvertently missed, something that wasn’t collected or an interview that wasn’t done you always subject yourself to criticism.”

Protesters from Pettis County to Kansas City now want answers.

But the Missouri State Highway Patrol said investigations take time. There are interviews and evidence sent to labs determining everything from blood splatter to ballistics.

Kansas City had six deadly police shootings in 2018 and several others where the person survived. But despite the anticipated extra workload, the highway patrol said it’s ready and willing to help.

“We will do it as quickly as possible, but we want to make sure we are doing our due diligence and we aren’t going to rush,” Lowe said.

The outside agency who conducts the investigation doesn’t decide if an officer should face charges. The evidence is turned over to the local prosecutor.

Another important point: They also don’t know the department’s policies. So it’s still up to an internal review to see if that officer followed protocol. 

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