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Verdicts & Settlements

Family of Overland Park Teenager Killed by Police Gets Settlement

— January 16, 2019

The family of 17-year old John Albers, killed last year by an Overland Park police officer, has settled with the city for $2.3 million. Activists say that even though damages will be paid out, there are still many questions left lingering.

The family of an Overland Park, Kansas teenager killed by police have reached a $2.3 million settlement with the city.

John Albers, 17, was killed last winter outside his family home.

Law enforcement was called after a tipster told police that the teenager was threatening to kill himself on FaceTime. Police quickly arrived, only to find Albers inside a vehicle.

The shooting, reports the Washington Post, occurred on January 20, 2018. Albers was backing a van out of the driveway when he was shot dead by Officer Clayton Jenison.

Jenison, who fired 13 rounds into the van, was cleared of any wrongdoing a month later. Johnson County Prosecutor Steve Howe deemed the shooting justifiable, claiming the officer feared for his life.

Howe later released two dash-cam videos. According to the Post, the footage seemed to contradict Howe and Jenison.

Albers’ mother filed a lawsuit in April, demanding damages and greater transparency. Overland Park tried to force a dismissal before a court could compel it comply with discovery requests and turn its documents over to attorneys.

Michael Rader, who the Kansas City Star says is representing the Albers family, said the court’s decision not to overrule was a pivotal moment in the case.

“The judge ruled that after considering the facts, a reasonable jury could find the officer’s use of lethal force was unreasonable,” Rader said in a statement.

Community outrage over the shooting also impassioned local citizens, who formed a group called JOCO United. Albers’ mother, Sheila, said the family will continue to work with the organization even after the lawsuit’s resolution.

Image via Wikimedia Commons. No author named. (CCA-BY-3.0)

“We can only hope this tragedy serves to prevent similar tragedies from happening to other families,” Sheila Albers said. “JOCO United seeks to improve Crisis Intervention Team training when officers encounter citizens in mental distress and to expand transparency of public agencies by allowing access to information in police shootings.”

The Kansas City Star reports that a copy of the settlement agreement, obtained by the paper, makes no admission of wrongdoing on the city’s part.

JOCO United leader Mark Schmid said on Tuesday that the group still plans to pursue Overland Park’s internal documents, even if the suit’s been settled.

“I have written the City Attorney this morning requesting that they now provide the previously denied materials,” Schmid said.

Schmid, says the Washington Post, has filed dozens of freedom of information requests with Overland Park. While he’s purportedly received ‘ample numbers’ of policies and procedures, he hasn’t been able to obtain any reports on the Albers case.

Because of Overland Park’s apparent lack of transparency, Schmid’s threatened to file suit unless its local government falls in line.

“I am prepared to file suit pursuant to the Kansas Open Records Act to obtain them,” Schmid said. “While I am confident that this action will be successful, it doesn’t change the overall lack of transparency that plagues police departments throughout the State of Kansas and many other places.”

The lawsuit took particular issue with Jenison’s decision to kill Albers, as well as with the prosecutor’s to not file any charges against the officer.

“A vehicle passing a police officer does not give that officer an ongoing license to kill an unthreatening citizen,” it said.

Overland Park did not admit to making any procedural mistakes or to having inadequate policies for law enforcement responses to persons in crisis.


Family of Overland Park teen shot by police officer settles lawsuit for $2.3 million

Kansas city pays $2.3 million to family of teen slain by police officer

Lawsuit: Teen killed by Overland Park police was ‘simply backing his mom’s minivan’

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