Prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against Jackson County eviction deputies who last year shot and wounded a man in Blue Springs after he brandished an air rifle.
In a November letter, Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said her Use of Force Committee determined the tenant, identified as 38-year-old Donald Smith, displayed what looked like a firearm in a “threatening manner” before the shooting on Jan. 8, 2021.
The process servers, or deputies, from the court system reasonably thought they had to defend themselves, Baker wrote in the letter explaining why charges were not justified. Smith admitted his “intention was to draw fire from the deputies,” she noted.
The shooting unfolded about 9 a.m. that day at 465 NW Westchester Court as the deputies served Smith with eviction process. The homeowner said she began eviction proceedings because Smith was five months late on his rent, according to the letter.
Before the shooting, Smith said there were no guns in the house, Baker wrote. He was calm at first, but then reached behind a bookcase. He was told to show his hands and pulled out a “long gun.” Deputies shot him after he raised its barrel, according to Baker’s letter. Two paramedics who treated Smith recalled that he said he wanted the deputies to shoot him.
“I intentionally had a toy gun that I knew I couldn’t hurt them with it and I knew if they saw it that they would fire on me and that’s what they did,” he later told police at a hospital, according to the letter.
Smith also called the deputies “good guys” who did “nothing wrong,” the letter stated.
Four bullets were recovered from the scene, as was the air rifle, which shoots pellets and BBs, though it did not contain any that day, police said. The rifle, which had a scope, did not have “any bright colored markings, tags or plastic tip markings that would indicate it was not a gunpowder based platform,” according to the letter.
Court deputies receive training in firearms for their safety. If incidents do escalate, they are taught to disengage. Jackson County Court spokeswoman Valerie Hartman has said the situation changed so quickly that day that the deputies did not have time to disengage.
“The individual in question allowed the staff to come into the house, and interacted with the field staff in a normal and non-threatening manner before unexpectedly grabbing a weapon,” Hartman said last year.