Friends of a 24-year-old man fatally shot by police near the Power & Light District early Sunday say they saw him throw down his gun just before an officer shot him.
The friends, who were running behind Ryan L. Stokes just before the shooting took place in a parking lot, also say they didn’t hear officers near them giving Stokes any warning.
But the officer who fired came into the lot from the opposite side as Stokes’ friends, police said, so it’s plausible that the friends couldn’t hear the commands.
Kansas City police, who released additional details about the shooting Tuesday, said they interviewed independent witnesses who confirmed that the officer who fired and his partner were yelling at Stokes and a second man to “stop” and “drop the gun” just before the shooting.
The second gunman, Kenneth L. Cann, 24, hid his gun under his car and surrendered to police during the incident, which happened just before 3 a.m. in a parking lot near 12th and McGee streets.
But Stokes, who was near a different car, ignored an officer’s repeated demands to show his hands, said police Capt. Tye Grant. The officer saw Stokes running with a gun toward other officers and believed Stokes still had the gun when he fired at him.
Police later concluded that Stokes had thrown his gun into another friend’s car before he was shot. The officer fired three times and Stokes appeared to have been shot twice, police said.
The friends said Stokes carried a gun for protection but wouldn’t point it at an officer or use it to commit a crime.
“Every young man in Kansas City has a gun,” said Lashawnda Johnson, 23. “There are a lot of idiots out here and you have to defend yourself.”
She didn’t like how Stokes was being portrayed after the shooting.
“He’s not a bad person at all,” she said. “I feel like they just took his life for no reason.”
The incident began at 13th Street and Grand Boulevard, after a man reportedly grabbed an iPhone out of another man’s hand. The alleged thief was with Stokes and Cann, but at the time, the victim didn’t know which of the three stole it.
The victim demanded the phone back and a disturbance erupted. Officers doused the group with pepper spray and everyone scattered.
Stokes, Cann and the alleged thief fled toward 13th and McGee. The victim pointed them out. Stokes and Cann ran north on McGee, and the alleged thief fled in a different direction.
Johnson and her friend were chatting in a parking lot at 13th and McGee when they saw Stokes and Cann run past the lot. The women ran after them and asked what they were doing.
The men did not answer, which was unusual, the women said.
Then Johnson and her friend, Frankie Dorch, saw that police were chasing them. One officer stopped Dorch and asked her why she was running.
“I told him I didn’t know,” she said. “I was just running because my friends were running.”
Shortly after the officers and Johnson and Dorch turned into another parking lot, Johnson and Dorch said, they saw Stokes throw his gun and heard gunshots.
“He just dropped to the ground,” Dorch said of Stokes. “He curled up and the officers handcuffed him.”
Cann admitted to police that he was carrying a loaded gun around the entertainment district, according to court documents. Jackson County prosecutors charged him with unlawful use of a weapon. The gun was reported stolen in Kansas City in 2010, the documents said.
Stokes’ friends said they understand that police may have seen Stokes with a gun and didn’t realize he was trying to get rid of it.
“There are some people we hang around that we’d be like, ‘He lives that lifestyle,’” Johnson said. “But with him, it’s a totally different case.”
Stokes graduated from Southeast High School in 2007, she said.
Police Chief Darryl Forté said police would turn their investigation over to prosecutors, who typically present the evidence before a grand jury.
“We won’t make the decision on the outcome of the case,” Forté said.