The best way to regard a grand jury’s indictment of a Kansas City police officer in connection with a non-fatal shooting is to consider it a step in a process.
A Jackson County citizens’ panel found there was probable cause to bring assault and armed criminal action charges against officer Jacob Ramsey for firing at a man who bolted from an East Side house last June. Anthony E. Contreras sustained facial injuries.
Probable cause, the U.S. Supreme Court has said, “is not a high bar.”
Prosecutors will now have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ramsey acted criminally when he shot Contreras. Police officials are standing by the officer. Chief Darryl Forté said in an internal communication that he believed Ramsey was “acting in the best interest of public safety.” Police previously said Ramsey thought Contreras was about to shoot him.
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Unlike in the grand jury proceeding, which deals with selective testimony from a prosecutor, Ramsey will have an opportunity to present a defense at trial. And while the secrecy of grand jury proceedings can be frustrating, the next stage will take place in open court. That ought to give the public a close look at an interaction between police and a citizen that ended badly.
Kansas City and Jackson County are fortunate to have capable, professional leaders at the helm of the Police Department and prosecutor’s office. Forté and Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker are cooperating in a joint venture to reduce violent crimes.
Indictments of police officers, while rare, have strained relationships between police and prosecutors here and elsewhere. That must not happen now.
It is crucial that the case against Ramsey be handled capably in the legal system, and not ruled by emotion.