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Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe: Olathe East SRO 'justified' in March shooting

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Posted at 11:30 AM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 18:49:36-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The school resource officer who shot an Olathe East High School student during an altercation March 4 will not be charged with a crime, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Friday.

After receiving a tip that the student, later identified as Jaylon Elmore, may have had a gun in his backpack, school administrators asked to search his bag after he was pulled from class.

RELATED | Complete previous coverage of the shooting at Olathe East

That search then escalated into an altercation during which eight shots were fired — four each by Elmore and four by Olathe police officer Erik Clark, who was on duty as Olathe East's school resource officer.

Clark, Elmore and Olathe East Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Kaleb Stoppel all suffered gunshot wounds, while a female administrator who also was in the room when Stoppel questioned Elmore escaped harm.

Howe's determination was made after a review by the Johnson County Officer-Involved Shooting Investigative Team determined that “the officer’s use of force was justified under Kansas law.”

READ | OISIT Media Fact Sheet

The altercation started when Stoppel was following up on a tip from a student that Elmore had brought a gun to school.

During the investigation, Stoppel and the female administrator repeatedly asked to search Elmore’s bag, but he refused.

Clark wasn't present when the two administrators initially questioned Elmore, but he eventually entered the room after receiving a text from Stoppel asking him to come and assist.

After Clark entered the room, the situation escalated into a potentially deadly shootout.

RELATED | Complete coverage of the Olathe East shooting

“In very rapid succession, Mr. Elmore produced his handgun and fired four times point blank at the officer,” the district attorney’s office said. “Three of the four shots hit him in center body mass, one literally in the middle of his chest. The fourth shot hit him in the leg.”

Elmore allegedly fired all four rounds before Clark could unholster his weapon.

After being shot, Clark returned fire four times, striking Elmore twice. It’s also suspected that one of the bullets Clark fired struck Stoppel as he tackled Elmore.

The gravity of the situation justified Clark’s action, according to the district attorney’s statement.

“The Olathe School Resource Officer believed that he was going to die when Jaylon Elmore drew a handgun and began firing at him,” Howe’s office said. “He watched the muzzle flashes and felt the bullets impact his body. This was a sudden burst of deadly violence without provocation. Objectively, the facts support this belief.”

Under Kansas law, Clark’s actions were deemed a justifiable use of deadly force.

Clark was shot in the left thigh, right chest and left arm/shoulder. He was treated and released from the hospital on the day of the shooting.

One of the bullets also destroyed his body-worn camera, which was mounted in the center of his chest.

Stoppel, who was shot in the thigh and forearm, also was treated and released from the hospital the day of the shooting.

Elmore, who has been charged with attempted capital murder for shooting Clark and remains in jail on a $1 million bond, was shot in the abdomen and left thigh. He remained hospitalized for more than two months before being transported to the Johnson County Detention Center.

The gun Elmore used was a Polymer80 9mm handgun, which Howe previously said the weapon used was a “ghost gun.” Such guns are sold in parts and assembled at home to skirt laws regulating the sale of firearms.

The next scheduled court appearance for Elmore is a scheduling conference on Aug. 17.