Malcolm Johnson’s fatal shooting by Kansas City police sent to prosecutors, MSHP says

Community activists and the Revolutionary Black Panther Party - KCMO
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The investigation of the fatal police shooting of a 31-year-old Kansas City man whose death has been highly criticized by local community activists and faith leaders has been sent to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office for review, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Earlier this month, the highway patrol announced its investigation of the shooting had concluded and turned over to the agency’s higher-ups in Jefferson City. Sgt. Bill Lowe, a spokesman for the highway patrol, said the case file was transferred to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office last week.

Malcolm Johnson, of Kansas City, was fatally shot March 25 inside a gas station convenience store near 63rd Street and Prospect Avenue in Kansas City as police were attempting to arrest him. One officer was shot in the leg during the encounter.

A decision to determine whether the shooting was justified under Missouri law now goes before Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker. The case will be evaluated by a special use of force committee run by the prosecutor’s office, where facts of the case will be discussed and a decision could be made whether to issue criminal charges.

The highway patrol led the investigation of the fatal police shooting. The state agency has been designated to conduct such use of force reviews for the past year after the Kansas City Police Department had previously handled police shooting investigations internally.

Police have said Johnson drew a weapon and shot an officer while he resisted an arrest inside the store. That officer returned fire, killing Johnson, according to police.

But a pair of videos surfaced by a group of faith leaders weeks later challenged the initial narrative. Those faith leaders were given the videos by community members that appeared to show Johnson heavily restrained by police as he was being arrested, raising doubt among some about the basic facts provided by law enforcement officials.

One surveillance camera from inside the store showed two officers enter with weapons drawn as Johnson is standing at the counter scratching a lottery ticket. He tries to run away, the video shows, before Johnson is grabbed by several officers and taken to the ground.

A second video apparently filmed with a cellphone from behind the store counter showed five police officers struggling with Johnson for nearly three minutes before three gunshots are heard. In the mass of bodies, it is impossible to tell from the video alone the order of the gunshots or their origin.

Others, meanwhile, have criticized the way Kansas City police are seen handling the arrest by entering the store with guns in hand, including experts in police use of force. In that situation, Johnson was given no chance to surrender to authorities and innocent bystanders were placed in harm’s way, the experts told The Star.

Kansas City police officers were trying to arrest Johnson for alleged armed criminal action related to a shooting that happened 10 days earlier.

The shooting Johnson was sought for occurred March 15 in the 9700 block of East 43rd Street, according to police. A bullet grazed the foot of a man at a home there.

In 2016, Johnson was mistakenly released from the Jackson County Detention Center while facing charges in a murder case. The next year, he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.

The Star’s Glenn E. Rice, Luke Nozicka and Katie Moore contributed to this report.