A Jackson County grand jury indicted a Kansas City police officer Friday in connection with the nonfatal shooting of a 37-year-old man last June.
Prosecutors did not release details of the shooting incident, but family and friends told media last summer that the man was unarmed when the officer shot him in the face June 24 in the 6400 block of East 15th Terrace.
Officer Jacob Ramsey, 31, faces charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the case.
Various law enforcement and legal sources said Friday that they could not recall the last time a Kansas City officer was indicted after a shooting.
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In an internal message to department members, Police Chief Darryl Forté said he believed the officer was “acting in the best interest of public safety when he was placed in that situation.”
Shortly after the shooting, police officials said officers had gone to a house looking for a wanted person. Someone matching that person’s description ran from the house. An officer fired his weapon when he believed the person was about to shoot him.
Officers performed first aid on the man until paramedics arrived and took him to a hospital, police said at the time.
Friday’s indictment does not name the man shot. But in previous media interviews, family and friends identified him as Anthony E. Contreras. An attorney representing Contreras on a pending criminal case in Jackson County did not return a call seeking comment Friday.
Because a grand jury handled the case, no probable cause statement outlining the allegations was released. The Jackson County prosecutor’s office said it would have no further comment on the case.
Ramsey was arraigned Friday afternoon. A Jackson County judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.
Ramsey’s attorney, Sean McCauley, waived his client’s right to a jury trial and requested a trial in front of a judge. An April 2 trial date was set.
McCauley declined further comment because he had just received the investigative file and had not been able to review it.
In a brief written statement, the Police Department said Ramsey was a veteran of almost five years assigned to the tactical enforcement unit. He is on unpaid leave while the case is pending.
Forté, who attended the arraignment, said he could not comment on the case. But he said he had the “utmost respect” for Ramsey.
“Numerous times on a daily basis, officers are confronted with situations where split-second decisions are required,” Forté said.
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police released a written statement expressing strong support for Ramsey, whom it described as an impeccable officer with a flawless record. The FOP asked that the media respect his privacy as he prepares to “fight these baseless charges.”
“Officer Jacob Ramsey justifiably defended himself against a felon previously convicted of resisting arrest, narcotics and illegal possession of a firearm,” the statement said. “Officer Ramsey’s actions were in compliance with state and federal law and all department policies.”
The indictment comes as police shootings across the nation have strained relations between police departments and the communities they serve. Many critics have complained that grand jury processes need to change to keep them from being biased toward police, who closely work with prosecutors every day on criminal cases. Those prosecutors then are responsible for introducing evidence about police shootings to grand juries.
In Jackson County, prosecutors on Friday could recall only two indictments of police officers in the last 14 years. The first, in 2001, involved a fatal wreck, and that officer was acquitted at trial.
In 2013, prosecutors charged a former Kansas City officer with assault for punching a subdued suspect numerous times in the face. Carl S. Counti pleaded guilty to third-degree assault in that case.
For about a year now, Jackson County prosecutors have referred officer-involved shooting cases to a use-of-force committee, which determines whether the case should be taken before a grand jury, said spokesman Mike Mansur. Prior to that, all fatal shooting cases were taken to a grand jury.
In the last 10 years, Kansas City police have fatally shot 53 people. None of the officers involved has been indicted.
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