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Level of detail remains unclear as Overland Park prepares to release shooting report

41 Action News sues for report in Albers' death
John Albers
Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 19:22:55-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Following a 41 Action News lawsuit, city leaders in Overland Park have decided to publicly release a portion of a key report in the police shooting death of a teen in 2018.

However, it's unclear what the public will be allowed to see.

Video which already has been publicly released shows then-Overland Park Police Officer Clayton Jenison taking his service weapon out of his holster as the garage door starts to open at the Albers' family home in January 2018.

As the minivan starts to back up, Jenison opens fire, killing 17-year-old John Albers.

Following the shooting, the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team or OISIT, comprised of law enforcement officers from other communities outside Overland Park, issued a report.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said he used that report to decide Jenison would not be charged with a crime in the case.

However, despite multiple requests for the report, including from the 41 Action News I-Team, the report has never been made public.

Citing an erosion of public confidence in the Overland Park Police Department, more than three years after the fatal shooting, city leaders say Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez has decided to publicly release the report with some information taken out to protect privacy concerns.

"I think it's the best thing to do. There's misinformation out there and I think we're putting everything out to be completely transparent," said Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach.

"To allow Frank Donchez to decide about what I get to see about what one of his officers did is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," said Bernie Rhodes, the attorney representing 41 Action News in the lawsuit against Overland Park to get the OISIT report.

Rhodes said that lawsuit will move forward until it's known what the city has publicly released.

"It's clear to me beyond any shadow of a doubt that this release has been caused by the lawsuit," Rhodes said.

When the I-Team asked Gerlach if the lawsuit had anything to do with the decision to release part of the OISIT report publicly, he said, "I wouldn't have any idea."

On Monday morning, the faith-based social justice group MORE2 demanded Donchez be fired.

By Monday evening, the city announced after a several week process, Donchez decided to release the OISIT report.

That decision hasn't altered MORE2's demand for new leadership at the Overland Park Police Department.

"I think we still have to ask: Why did it take so long?" said Marcus Winn, MORE2 Community Organizer.

Winn points out Donchez told the community in 2018 Jenison resigned for personal reasons, not revealing the city paid Jenison $70,000 to leave the department.

Donchez also told the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training, or C-POST, which regulated police licensing, that Jenison resigned voluntarily under "ordinary" circumstances.

"I think saying Officer Jenison left under ordinary circumstances is a lie. There's nothing ordinary about the killing of an unarmed child," Winn said.

Rhodes said there are legitimate questions about Donchez committing perjury when he told C-POST Jenison resigned under ordinary circumstances.

C-Post is currently investigating a complaint filed by John Albers' mother, Sheila Albers, against Donchez.

"What seems to have gotten lost is the fact that Frank Donchez did that because he was told to do that by his boss, Bill Ebel," Rhodes said.

As the I-Team has previously reported, it was City Manager Bill Ebel who negotiated the deal to pay Jenison $70,000 to resign.

On Monday night, the Overland Park City Council voted 10-2 to give Ebel a $10,000 raise, bringing his annual salary to $248,400.

Even as the city plans to release a portion of the OISIT Report, Overland Park still faces an open federal investigation in the Albers case.

The I-Team asked Mayor Gerlach, based on the open FBI civil rights investigation more than three years after the fatal shooting, if the city handled the Albers case well.

"We'll find out when they give us the report," Gerlach said.

Overland Park's attorney plans to show the OISIT Report to the Albers Family first.

Once he does, the redacted report will be publicly released, possibly later this week.

Sheila Albers declined comment on Tuesday as she processes the release of the OISIT Report she's been waiting to see more than three years.

She did tell the I-Team Monday night she wants to see the full, non-redacted OISIT Report, including three dash cam videos and to hear Jenison's recorded audio.