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The Fed opens a civil rights investigation into a Kansas teenager who was killed by police during the wellness check



Federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation into the police fatal shooting of a Kansas teenager who was withdrawing from the family’s garage when an officer – responding to a call for a wellness check – fired 13 times.

The FBI will “gather all available facts and evidence and ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner,” a spokeswoman told NBC News in a statement Thursday. The agency’s Kansas City, Missouri, branch works with the US law firm in Kansas and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

The FBI did not comment on the reason or focus of the investigation and referred to the ongoing investigation.

The January 201

8 murder of 17-year-old John Albers sparked national outcry over the use of excessive force by police in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park.

John Albers in a family photo.Courtesy Sheila Albers

After his death, Albers’ family searched for answers as to the reasons for the shooting and even the name of the officer who killed him. They quickly learned that this was a struggle due to the state’s restrictive laws on public records, including police records.

A month after Albers was shot, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced an official investigation that found the official, who feared for his life, was justified in his actions. At the time, Howe and Overland Park police chief Frank Donchez said the officer resigned from police before administrative action could be taken.

The officer’s name, Clayton Jenison, was only publicly confirmed by officials after Albers’ attorney uncovered him on an April 2018 civil lawsuit filed against the officer and law enforcement agencies.

Albers’ mother, Sheila Albers, said she welcomed the investigation by the FBI and the US law firm and hoped they would “shed some light on what Overland Park and our prosecutors were able to hide”.

The opening of an investigation “underscores the failure of Overland Park and District Attorney Steve Howe to be transparent in their investigation and accountable to their constituents,” she added.

Sean Reilly, a spokesman for the City of Overland Park, said officials would “fully cooperate … just like we worked with the investigation conducted by the Johnson County Attorney’s Office and the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards.”

Overland Park Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

The night Albers was killed, his family had gone out to dinner. According to Sheila Albers and the federal complaint filed by the family, the police were called home for a wellness check after a friend feared Albers was drunk and felt suicidal and threatened to stab himself with a knife.

Dashcam videos and a neighbor’s security camera showed Jenison and another officer arriving at home. They spoke outside for a few minutes first and did not knock on the front door or identify themselves. Finally the family garage door swung open and Jenison unupholstered his gun and headed for the door just as the minivan Albers was driving was about to pull out.

As the minivan went back slowly and straight, Jenison reacted, aimed his gun and yelled, “Stop, stop, stop.” Jenison, standing to the right of the van, shot Albers twice in one second; The family’s complaint alleged that one or both bullets hit the teenager, “incapacitating him and rendering him unable to control the minivan”.

The car stopped, but then backed up, made a U-turn in the driveway, and pulled back. Jenison fired eleven more shots, and the minivan passed another police car that had just approached and rolled neutrally into the driveway of a house across the street.

A toxicological report showed that Albers was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When Howe announced his decision not to indict the officer in 2018, he said, “These are fluid and immediate decisions that a law enforcement officer must make, which is what makes the job so difficult.”

The family settled with Overland Park for $ 2.3 million in 2019, the Washington Post reported, though the city admitted no liability and said they settled to avoid the cost and length of the litigation.

But Sheila Albers has long questioned the police narrative that Jenison had no choice but to draw his gun because he was in imminent danger.

In June, city officials confirmed Jenison had received $ 70,000 as part of a severance package when he agreed to step down. This amount was paid despite the prosecution clearing him of wrongdoing.

The city said the deal was “in the best interests of the community” and could prevent Jenison from potentially fighting for the force to be reinstated as there was “no fair reason to terminate it” and avoiding costly lawsuits. Officials also said Chief Donchez never communicated with Jenison about the deal or encouraged him to close it.

Efforts to reach Jenison were unsuccessful on Thursday.

Sheila Albers said she was hoping for more transparency in the federal investigation after officials “spread a false narrative, cleared the officer of wrongdoing in record time and structured a severance payment to the officer who killed John”.


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