OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced Tuesday that the officer who shot and killed an Overland Park teen will not face charges.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe and Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez hosted a news conference at 10:30 a.m. to release the findings of the Officer-Involved Shooting Team’s investigation into the shooting that occurred Jan. 20, 2018.
John Albers, 17, died as a result of that shooting. An official investigation determined the shooting was justified. Howe had the final say in the decision not to pursue charges against the officer.
Howe said they decided to release the difficult video because of all the rumors circulating about the deadly shooting.
Here’s an excerpt of what you’ll see in the video: As one officer approaches a home, the video shows a van driven by Albers quickly backing out of the garage, whipping around so it’s now facing forward in the driveway. There is already one officer on the scene, out of the patrol car, trying to stop the driver, and when Albers backs up, that officer is behind the van, in the line of the car. When he shoots at Albers, the officer is at the side of the van.
The same officer fired 2 initial shots, then fired 11 more shots.
Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez, Jr., addressed questions about whether the officer was actually in immediate danger.
“He was out of the way at one point, but as you saw the van turned around and came back at him,” said Donchez. “One of the misconceptions is that if you are alongside a vehicle you are no longer subject to danger. That’s not remotely true. One cut of the wheel to one side or other can take you down with the side of the vehicle. Don’t let the fact that he’s alongside the vehicle fool anyone into believing that he’s no longer in danger.”
“A vehicle can be a weapon,” Howe said. “That factored into our equation.”
Howe and Donchez released two views of the shooting.
In one, viewers can see an officer just arriving on the scene. He gets out of the car and comes running as the van whips around. Shots are fired.
The officer can be heard saying:
“What the f***? Stop the car! Shots fired! Shots fired! Stop! Stop! John, stop the car.”
Then: “Shots fired. He’s down. He needs medical attention. John, John, John, John. John…. John, John. Oh, sh*t.”
Dispatch audio indicates one of the officers heading to Albers’ home was familiar with the teen. It’s unclear how, but Albers did have two charges from 2016 that were later dismissed.
Howe said the investigation team was not able to determine which of the 13 shots killed Albers.
“No officer goes to work and wants to take a life,” Donchez said.
Howe says it’s well established that a vehicle can be used as a deadly weapon, but he declined to speculate if the teen was deliberately trying to draw the officer’s fire in a “suicide by cop” attempt.
The incident from start to finish lasted 14 seconds, and Howe says it’s hard to second guess split-second judgments made by officers on the scene.
According to 911 dispatch audio, Albers was chatting with a friend on Facetime, saying he’d been taking pills and drinking. He said he was done with life and threatened to hurt himself.
Howe said Overland Park police receive approximately 2,400 mental health calls a year.
“Please give us more resources to deal with mental health crisis in the country,” said Howe. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of our officer-involved shootings involve people with mental illness.”
Reporters questioned Howe about whether he considered convening a grand jury to review the video and decide whether the officer used ‘reasonable force.’
Howe said he made the decision alone because he’s elected to make tough decisions.
That officer has resigned for personal reasons.
Watch the video from two different angles:
Listen to more of the dispatch audio in the video player below.
If you are thinking of hurting or killing yourself or know someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. Locally, the Johnson County Mental Health Center’s crisis line is available 24/7 at 913-268-0156.
To get involved in suicide prevention, you can join the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition. For more resources, visit the coalition’s website here.
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