NewsLocal NewsInvestigations

Actions

Former prosecutor explains review process into deadly KCFD crash in Westport

westport crash
Posted at 5:13 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 18:13:05-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The KSHB 41 I-Team is learning about the steps Jackson County prosecutors may be taking as they review the deadly Kansas City, Missouri, fire truck crash from last December in Westport.

The crash, involving a KCFD pumper truck and an SUV, killed three people. It happened Dec. 15 near Broadway Boulevard and Westport Road.

"I'd say video footage of an actual situation like this would be central," Dan Nelson, former Jackson County chief deputy prosecutor, told KSHB 41. "Rarely is it dispositive because the testimony that explains what's happening in the video is just as important or can be even more important than the video itself."

Nelson served in the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's office from 2016 until last December. He now works for the law firm Spencer Fane.

In February, KCPD turned over the results of its investigation to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

The I-Team asked Nelson if nearly six months is considered to be a long time to review this type of crash.

"I find that to be a typical amount of time to make a thoughtful and fulsome decision," Nelson said. "My experience with this prosecutor's office is that they'll take as much time as needed to fully investigate, figure the whole picture out and then make the most informed decision."

Nelson said the prosecutor's office has a homicide review committee. The committee has senior prosecutors and investigative agencies like KCPD on it.

Nelson said there are three ways the decision to charge could go. Prosecutors could find the pumper truck driver was either negligent or reckless. They could also decide they cannot prove criminal conduct.

"This stage is where they partner with investigators to make sure that they're getting enough information to meet that high, high standard, which is the highest standard in our system of beyond a reasonable doubt evidence," Nelson said.

Nelson said the committee will also likely consider factors out of the pumper driver's control.

"Were there problems with the intersection? Was there problems with conduct of the driver that's beyond the control of the pumper driver, the conduct of other parties?," Nelson said.

If necessary, the committee could bring in an expert. Nelson said an expert would bring context to policies, procedures, and training.

"It's very hard to make those calls between potentially negligent conduct and potentially reckless conduct or not criminal conduct at all," Nelson said.