KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A special prosecutor will review the case of a Kansas City police shooting that left Malcolm Johnson dead in March 2021.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker requested that the court appoint the special prosecutor to the case “to avoid the appearance of a conflict on interest on a matter of such high community concern,” according to court records.
That special prosecutor will determine whether or not there is probable cause to file charges against anyone involved.
Johnson was shot and killed by Kansas City police on March 25 inside a BP gas station at 63rd Street and Prospect Avenue. Police said they were attempting to take him into custody because he was a suspect in a domestic violence shooting. KCPD said he fired at police first, injuring one officer.
But in early June, a group of local pastors released two new videos from inside the gas station, raising questions about the police shooting.
One surveillance video shows the moment the Kansas City officers approached Johnson and what followed. The actual shooting takes place out of the security camera’s view. Another video, taken from a cell phone, shows five officers in a physical struggle with Johnson and gunfire erupts.
The frustrated clergy believe the police department’s initial report and the footage contradicted each other. They also don’t believe that, even with Johnson’s long criminal history, he deserved to be shot.
“When they entered the store, you could clearly see that they already had their minds made up, that this was going to be a somewhat violent confrontation,” said Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III with the group Getting to the Heart of the Matter.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol led the investigation, and in late June, the agency handed over its report to the prosecutor’s office.
Why is there a special prosecutor?
Johnson’s criminal history is also one of the reasons the prosecutor’s office cited when requesting the special prosecutor. Court documents say Johnson’s history “raises concerns for the neutrality of the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to review the file.”
He was charged with possession of a firearm in 2010 and tampering with a vehicle in 2011, for which he served probation.
Then in 2014, Johnson was charged with second-degree murder, accused of killing of 22-year-old Monteario “Monty” Hogan. While he was being held pre-trial for Hogan’s murder, the Jackson County Detention Center mistakenly released in him in 2016.
KCPD caught up with Johnson six months later when Independence police found him in a truck bed with a loaded stolen gun. At that time, he faced new charges for having the gun and went back to jail. He eventually pleaded to a lesser charge in Hogan’s death.
Peters Baker also pointed out that there were some conflicts in the release of information after the shooting. The Missouri State Highway Patrol took the lead on the investigation, but the prosecutor said KCPD continued to release details the next day even though they handed off the investigation.
Who’s the new prosecutor?
A judge granted Peters Baker’s request for a special prosecutor, and now the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office will take over the case.
That office told FOX4 it has appointed Rachel Smith as special assistant prosecutor on this case.
Smith has also previously served as a special prosecutor with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office before joining the St. Louis City Circuit Attorney’s Office for over 15 years. She’s also an adjunct professor at Washington University’s law school.
There’s no timeline so far on when Smith will make any decision about the shooting.
What are others saying?
A spokesperson for Johnson’s family said they’re hopeful a new set of eyes will give them a fair shot at justice.
“These processes take time is something that we have to learn. They have to learn as we move through it,” family spokesman Khadijah Hardaway said. “It’s a long road.”
Hardaway said the family is hopeful now, but they know there will be some obstacles.
“There’s a lot of people connected that have been shouting about this murder and the corruption, and some of those players just don’t have a good relationship with the police department,” Hardaway said. “Let’s just be honest.”
Pastor Darron Edwards with Getting to the Heart of the Matter said he hopes this change will bring a fair trial.
“We’re playing chess not checkers, and I think this is the way to bring in a prosecutor, knowing the history of Jean Peters Baker and the top cop Chief Rick Smith,” Edwards said.