LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — A grand jury indicted a former Leavenworth Police Department officer in a 2017 deadly officer-involved shooting.
On Monday, the Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson announced Matthew Harrington is charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“The charge of involuntary manslaughter for this case is the unintentional killing of a human being during the commission of a lawful act in a manner,” Thompson said.
Harrington was fired from the department after an investigation into the shooting.
A news release from Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens from January 2018 said Officer Matthew Harrington responded to a report of a stolen car on July 11, 2017, at 1708 Rose Street. After an initial review of events, it was determined to be an argument over possession of a family vehicle that resulted from a domestic dispute.
Before Harrington arrived, the man involved in the dispute, Antonio Garcia, 47, left the residence. Shortly afterward, Garcia returned.
The news release said Harrington and Garcia had an encounter in the driveway of the home while Garcia was in his SUV, and at one point Harrington fired his duty weapon.
A bullet struck and killed Garcia.
The Leavenworth Police Department investigated to determine if Harrington was in compliance with the department policy that governs the use of deadly force. According to the news release, the investigation concluded on Jan. 19, 2018.
Kitchens said he reviewed the investigation and concluded Harrington violated that policy.
On Jan. 26, 2018, Harrington was terminated from the Leavenworth Police Department.
The criminal investigation was independent of the Leavenworth Police Department's investigation.
Harrington’s criminal charge announced Monday stems from a grand jury which the county’s attorney’s office began in May.
“They are given evidence from the state and given the different charges that they can look for and they can choose what they believe to indict on,” Thompson said.
McCauley & Roach, LLC, the law firm representing Harrington, released a statement on his behalf:
"Although tragic for all involved, Officer Harrington used force only in response to a clear and immediate threat to his life. We are confident that justice will be served when Officer Harrington is exonerated based upon the reasonableness of his actions."
Chief Kitchens released a statement Monday afternoon:
“The Leavenworth Police Department supports Mr. Thompson's decision to empanel a grand jury to review the facts and circumstances of the officer Involved shooting with former Officer Matthew Harrington. When this kind of event occurs in a community there must be a rigorous review of the facts and circumstances by outside entities to ensure the communities trust in the police department. The grand jury's decision is an important step in that process. This matter now turns to the Criminal Justice System and we stand ready to support that process as well.”
“Now I want everybody to please remember that law enforcement has and always will be the cornerstone of our community,” Thompson said.
John Cusick, one of the attorneys representing Garcia’s family, told 41 Action News they are disappointed as to how long it took to file this charge but they view it as this a step toward justice.
Cusick said the family still wants video from Harrington’s body camera released to the public.
They’re currently suing the city of Leavenworth for that video footage.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is also representing Garcia's family, released the following statement:
"On behalf of the family of Antonio Garcia Jr., I commend the Leavenworth county attorney for bringing the criminal charge of involuntary manslaughter against this former Officer Matthew Harrington, a cold-blooded killer. This is a step toward justice for the Garcia family, who have suffered an unspeakable loss. We still stand behind our demands for the police video footage, which the family and public deserve to have and see. They deserve nothing less than all the facts related to Mr. Garcia’s final moments."
Harrington’s next court date is Sept. 26.