OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Following the death of her teenage son, an Overland Park mother is pushing for change in how officer-involved shootings are handled in the state of Kansas.
Sheila Albers is taking her fight for transparency to the state capitol.
In 2018, the state of Kansas had seven officer-involved shootings that resulted in a death. In one of them, Shelia Albers lost her 17-year-old son John.
“The only thing we knew were that shots were fired and we don’t own firearms, so I didn’t know what to think," Shelia Albers said.
On January 20, 2018, John Albers was shot and killed by an Overland Park police officer. Sheila Albers told 41 Action News that John stayed home while the rest of the family went out for dinner with extended family. Not long after leaving their home, she said she received a number of text messages and phone calls and knew something was wrong.
“I bolted out of the car and I attempted to get down my street to get to the house and an officer stopped me and I said is my son okay, and the officer said he’s passed," Shelia Albers said.
Police said officers were doing a welfare check after John Albers' friends worried he would harm himself.
“His friends did the right thing and they called 911 and 911 got there before we got home," Shelia Albers said.
Before officers identified themselves, John Albers backed the family's car out of the garage. Officers fired 13 shots, 6 of them striking him.
Two months later, Sheila filed a lawsuit after she said many of her questions about what happened went unanswered by police and the district attorney.
“Our information that we gathered on our own didn’t completely match what the district attorney had released, so that is why transparency is so important," Shelia Albers said.
She has been working closely with Kansas State Representative David Benson to draft and file a bill that would help families in the future.
“What could we do legally to assure that families who experience police shootings have closure? That they understand every element of what happened to their loved one?" Benson said.
House Bill 2424 has three components.
“Key elements of the bill are a policy, an investigation by an outside agency and in the case of non-prosecutorial decision, a release of the record redacted to protect individuals that are necessary," Benson said.
In 2014, a similar bill was passed in Wisconsin.
"I’m not trying to be anti-police or anti-prosecutor. They do good work, but there’s no check on that. There’s no public trust built in the process if you don’t release the record," Benson said.
Sheila Albers said she is hopeful Kansas will follow suit.
"In Wisconsin, when they passed this legislation, and it was supported by law enforcement, they saw it as a way to build pubic trust. They saw it as ways to maintain credibility in their community," Shelia Albers said.
Benson said the next step for the bill is to get a hearing, which he's hopeful will happen sometime this year.
Across the state line in Missouri, once an officer-involved shooting case is declined for prosecution, it's considered a closed case. The investigative case then becomes open record.