Kansas City officer who fatally shot a man in 2021 will not be charged with a crime

Some civil rights activists said the shooting of Malcolm Johnson, who was Black, was part of a trend of officers in Missouri’s largest city killing Black men

Malcolm Johnson
Members of the community gather for a vigil in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 2, 2021, at the BP gas station where Malcolm Johnson was shot and killed by police on March 25.Rebecca Slezak (AP)

A Kansas City, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot a man at a convenience store nearly two years ago will not be charged with a crime, following a decision by a special prosecutor.

Malcolm Johnson was killed in March 2021. Some civil rights, religious and community activists said the shooting of Johnson, who was Black, was part of a trend of officers in Missouri’s largest city killing Black men. They questioned if officers gave Johnson sufficient time to surrender before shooting him.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell’s office announced Monday that no charges should be filed, following an investigation by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Bell’s office took on the case after Jackson County prosecutors cited a conflict of interest.

“Given the review of all the evidence, there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who shot Malcolm Johnson was not acting in lawful self-defense or defense of others under Missouri law,” Bell’s office said in a statement.

The decision drew criticism from some civil rights groups.

“This case is not only tragic but also a clear example of how KCPD gets away with murder, covers it up, and claims it is justice. This is not justice,” the organization Decarcerate Kansas City wrote on Twitter.

Khadijah Hardaway, a spokeswoman for the family of Malcolm Johnson, said the family will ask the US Department of Justice to investigate the decision not to charge the officer who shot Johnson.

“We’re just asking for transparency and justice for the Malcolm Johnson family,” Hardaway said.

On the evening of March 25, 2021, two officers seeking Johnson for an unrelated shooting found him at a convenience store and approached him with their guns drawn. Surveillance video showed the officers grab Johnson. More officers joined in trying to restrain Johnson on the ground and an officer was shot. The report by Bell’s office said the wounded officer shot Johnson twice in the head.

But videos of the shooting raised questions about the police version, and the leader of a group of clergy who questioned the circumstances called Johnson’s death “an execution.”

Police Chief Stacey Graves said department officials “recognize there is still work to do with our community to build that trust and under my leadership relationships are among my top priorities,” the Kansas City Star reported.

Last year, former detective Eric DeValkenaere was sentenced to six years in prison for fatally shooting Cameron Lamb, a Black man who was backing a pickup truck into a garage.

In September, the US Department of Justice announced an investigation into allegations of discrimination against Black officers by the Kansas City Police Department that reportedly begins during hiring and extends to promotions and discipline.

Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker announced shortly after Johnson’s death that her office’s prosecution of him in prior criminal cases could be seen as a conflict of interest. Baker’s office charged Johnson in 2014 in a fatal shooting, and he later pleaded guilty to reduced charges of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.

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