At least nine law enforcement officers were cleared in five officer-involved shooting investigations completed in 2017 by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s use of force committee.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker posted on her website letters detailing why prosecutors cleared the officers in all the cases that the use of force committee concluded in 2017. The investigations stemmed from police shootings in late 2016 to 2017.
Baker created the committee in 2012 to investigate police shootings in a more public way. It includes a retired circuit court judge and prosecutors. Previously, investigations were conducted in secret by a grand jury.
Linda Dowdy, the mother of a man shot by a Kansas City police officer on Nov. 30, 2016, accepts that the officers at the scene and the officer who killed her son, David Crosby-Dowdy, were cleared of wrongdoing. But more than a year later she’s at an emotional crossroads.
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Crosby-Dowdy, 25, was a suspect in several robberies. Police said he was reaching for a high-powered rifle during his arrest that afternoon at Eighth Street and Van Brunt Boulevard. He had reportedly told police the morning of his death that he was armed and ready for a shootout.
He was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car. According to court records, the officer shot Crosby-Dowdy when he reached for the rifle as officers tried to remove him. The records indicate the officer and Crosby-Dowdy fought over the gun.
The officer fired five times. An autopsy report from the Jackson County Medical Examiner indicates Crosby-Dowdy was fatally wounded by four shots to his upper chest. He died at a hospital.
Linda Dowdy is still upset about the manner of David’s death: “He shot him and kept on shooting him. One shot. Two shots. Not five.”
The officer who shot him was a 20-year veteran who at the time worked in the street crimes unit.
Dowdy questioned why the officer would be in such close proximity to Crosby-Dowdy if police knew he was a threat.
“I believe that he was scared and he panicked,” Dowdy said. “He saw a gun and proceeded to shoot. Why would you shoot five times at someone in a seated position?”
Other officers from a joint task force witnessed the shooting as did two other people in the car with Crosby-Dowdy. The officer who shot Crosby-Dowdy was the only person to fire a weapon. There is no audio or video evidence.
In a letter to then Kansas City Police Chief Daryl Forte, who retired in May, Baker wrote that evidence did not support the filing of criminal charges against the officer.
Baker cited physical evidence, statements from witnesses and case law in declining to bring criminal charges.
“Mr. Dowdy was armed with a deadly weapon and was not complying with the warnings of the officer at the time of the shooting,” she wrote.
Use of force decisions
Baker’s use of force committee in 2017 concluded investigations into five police shootings in Jackson County; three of them were fatal shootings, including Crosby-Dowdy. The committee cleared all officers in the shootings it reviewed.
Baker cleared an Independence officer involved in the Jan. 7 shooting death of 51-year-old Carlos Cruz.
Cruz was shot after officers responded to reports of a suicidal man at the Independence Ridge Apartments in the 18900 block of East 37th Terrace South.
Officers found Cruz, an Independence resident, outside the apartments armed with a shotgun. The officers got others at the apartments to safety.
As police talked to Cruz, he allegedly pointed the shotgun toward the officers, and one officer shot him.
Police did not identify the officer.
A woman who identified herself as Cruz’s stepmother declined to comment and referred a Star reporter to Cruz’s mother and a sister. Messages left for those family members were not returned.
Officers from the Independence and Sugar Creek police departments were cleared in the Jan. 24 shooting death of 22-year-old Dakota Lukecart.
Lukecart of Lincoln, Mo., was the driver of a maroon sedan that allegedly fled from police. A gun, drugs and other items were thrown from the car during the pursuit and later linked to Lukecart.
A witness told police they found the gun in the middle of a residential street in Sugar Creek.
The shooting occurred about 2:20 a.m. near McBride Street and Barreto Lane. Lukecart and a male passenger were shot after the car reached a dead end on McBride.
Lukecart died and the other man, who was not identified, was seriously injured.
Officers, police said, opened fire on the car after Lukecart and the passenger failed to obey commands to show their hands and after Lukecart revved the engine to presumably resume the pursuit.
The officers told investigators they feared for the safety of other officers when the vehicle accelerated in their path.
Citing case law, Baker declined to charge either officer.
“In this specific case, Missouri law authorizes (police) to use deadly force to stop a suspect from fleeing when they reasonably believe that the suspect would endanger the lives of others if the driver of the (maroon) car is not arrested without delay,” she wrote.
Officials in Independence did not identify the officer involved in the shooting.
Sugar Creek officials said their officer was 24 at the time of the shooting.
The officer previously received commendations for life saving and also the Sugar Creek Optimist Club Respect for Law award. He was on administrative leave for 13 days, officials said.
Lukecart’s father, Kevin Jacobs, said he has heard next to nothing from authorities related to the case. He believes the shooting was avoidable.
“I want it to be justified in my mind,” Jacobs said. “Looking at this right now, I can’t see any justification.”
Jacobs said Lukecart left behind a daughter, now 4. The girl knows her father died at the hands of police, he said.
“I see no reason why she needs to find out later,” Jacobs said.
In November, officers in Kansas City and Independence, along with agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were cleared in the non-fatal shooting of armed fugitive Jason T. Simon.
Simon, 29, was shot in the shoulder by a member of a joint task force May 11 at Crossland Economy Studios in Independence after he pointed a shotgun at other officers. He allegedly pointed a shotgun at a trooper from the Missouri Highway Patrol three days before.
Task force officers who tracked Simon to the Independence hotel saw him carrying a backpack and a towel that concealed another object, later determined to be a black pistol grip shotgun.
An officer shot Simon when he refused to obey commands to drop the weapon. Simon is currently in custody at the Jackson County Detention Center on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and tampering with a motor vehicle.
“The evidence,” Baker wrote, “supports the conclusion that (Simon) was armed with a deadly weapon, repeatedly failing to comply with the commands of multiple officers at the time of the shooting, and his conduct leading up to the shooting demonstrates an intent to engage in violent behavior.”
Kansas City officers were also cleared of wrongdoing in the Oct. 2016 non-fatal shooting of an unidentified man armed with a gun after a pursuit near East 44th Street and Mersington in Kansas City.
In that incident, police shot a man in his mid-30s after responding about 2:50 a.m. to four separate reports of shots fired in the area of 37th Street and Wabash Avenue. When officers arrived, they pursued a vehicle they saw leaving that area.
Officers approached the vehicle when it came to a T intersection at 44th and Mersington and saw that the driver had a gun.
Officers told investigators they feared for their lives and shot the suspect, then administered first aid until medics arrived. The man was taken to a hospital and survived.
One officer shot at the vehicle 10 times and the other shot five times. A silver and black Ruger 9mm was found in the man’s possession. He had multiple gunshot wounds to the face, neck and upper back, and both hands.
The man told investigators he turned down a dead end near 44th and Mersington and police started shooting at him. He said he had no knowledge of the gun or how it got in his car.
The case ultimately went before a grand jury, but no charges were filed.
“Based on the law, the facts and the evidence in this matter, this Committee does not believe that the state is legally authorized to file charges against these officers,” Baker wrote.