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Johnson County DA: Use of force justified in December officer-involved shooting

KCK and OP officer involved shooting.jpg
Posted at 1:22 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 14:59:14-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Johnson County District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer's use of deadly force in a December shooting that occurred over the county line was justified.

The investigation was completed by the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Team, and District Attorney Steve Howe found the shooting justified under Kansas law and said no charges will be filed against the officer.

It happened shortly after 4 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2020, near South 39th Street and County Line Road near the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas. The road runs along the Johnson and Wyandotte County line. The actual shooting incident took place on the Johnson County side, despite it involving a KCK officer.

Court documents state the officer involved was driving a marked KCKPD car in full police uniform when he saw a vehicle matching a hit-and-run suspect description. The officer was not wearing a body camera and there is no video, audio or eyewitness account of the incident, according to the district attorney.

The officer attempted to stop the vehicle but the driver did not stop, so the officer began to search the area for the driver.

Documents state the officer found the vehicle parked down a cul-de-sac off the south side of County Line Road, placing the incident in Johnson County.

According to the district attorney, the officer parked and walked to a tree where he could observe the suspect vehicle without being seen and called for backup. He did not make contact with the driver.

At some point, the suspect looked directly at the officer and moved for his waistband, at which point the documents state the officer ordered the suspect to show his hands.

The suspect drew a handgun and hid behind the car to aim at the officer and fired on the officer multiple times, according to the recounting of the incident. The officer was struck in the chest but his ballistic vest stopped that bullet. Another bullet hit him in the left arm.

The documents state that the injured officer was able to fire one shot back at the suspect before his gun malfunctioned. He then took cover to fix his gun, but the suspect drove through a fence and up onto Interstate 635.

Backup arrived and the officer was taken to the hospital for his wound.

Howe's office said ballistics confirmed the officer's version of the incident.

Police later found the suspect vehicle abandoned in Kansas City, Kansas. Documents state a cartridge case was found in the car and a bullet was embedded in the driver's side.

Evidence led officers to arrest Jesse James Flaugher on Dec. 20, and he was charged with attempted capital murder for shooting the officer.

The district attorney determined the officer was outside of his jurisdiction but did not take any law enforcement action other than observing the suspect. He did not attempt to make an arrest, according to the ruling.

Howe's office said Flaugher initiated the shooting by drawing a gun without provocation and there is no evidence that Flaugher had any reason to defend himself from the officer.

Under Kansas law, the officer is entitled to a right to defend himself and the use of force was justifiable, Howe found.

"He was suddenly attacked by Jesse James Flaugher — who fired at him before he could draw his weapon and fire in self-defense," Howe said in his ruling. "Under the totality of the circumstances, he did what a reasonable officer would do — returned fire."

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