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Civil rights group to ask feds to look at police shooting of Ryan Stokes

The Ryan Stokes shooting

On July 28, 2013, 24-year-old Ryan Stokes died after he was shot by a police officer in a parking lot near 12th and McGee streets. His family and their attorney have disputed police accounts that Stokes had a gun.
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On July 28, 2013, 24-year-old Ryan Stokes died after he was shot by a police officer in a parking lot near 12th and McGee streets. His family and their attorney have disputed police accounts that Stokes had a gun.

A civil rights group will ask the federal government to look into a 2013 officer-involved shooting that left a Kansas City man dead.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City will ask the United States attorney general’s office and the FBI to investigate whether federal crimes or civil rights violations were committed in the shooting death of Ryan Stokes.

The group announced a news conference for 5 p.m. Wednesday near 12th and McGee streets in Kansas City to be followed by a prayer vigil at 6 p.m.

The area is near where Stokes was shot and killed by a Kansas City police officer on July 28, 2013, at the conclusion of an early-morning foot chase near the Power & Light District.

Vernon Percy Howard Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City and senior pastor at St. Mark Union Church in Kansas City, said there are various discrepancies in the case.

“What this amounts to is another case ... of an innocent African-American man — unarmed — being killed by police,” Howard said.

Matt McPhillips, a spokesman for the FBI’s field office in Kansas City, said he could not comment specifically on the Stokes case or confirm if they are investigating the shooting. He spoke after consulting with U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson.

However, McPhillips added, the bureau could possibly take a look at the case if warranted.

“We evaluate everything that comes in our door from a variety of different people,” McPhillips said.

Stokes’ mother, Narene Stokes-James, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in July in federal court seeking unspecified damages. She has long said that the shooting of her son was not justified.

The suit includes Stokes’ 4-year-old daughter as a plaintiff.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and William Thompson, the officer who shot Stokes, are named as defendants in the suit.

A grand jury declined to indict Thompson in the case.

The board of commissioners gave Thompson and his partner that night a commendation after the shooting, stating that Thompson “struck (Stokes) with a fatal shot, ending the threat to all officers involved.”

Police deemed the shooting reasonable because Stokes was fleeing from police officers and Thompson believed he saw a gun in Stokes’ hand.

In statements to investigators, Thompson said he saw the gun when he and Stokes crossed paths in a parking lot near 12th and McGee. After the shooting, police found a gun in a car next to Stokes’ body.

Witnesses told police they saw Stokes toss away a gun moments before the shooting. Investigators concluded that Stokes put the gun in the car just before he was shot.

A copy of the certificate of commendation issued to Thompson and his partner by the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners states that Stokes was armed with a gun and pointed it at pursuing officers.

Howard said those discrepancies are why the group wants the feds involved.

“The commendation for the officers involved in the (shooting) state that Mr. Stokes possessed a weapon, brandished a weapon and pointed that weapon at two officers in front of him,” Howard said. “However, in contrast, the official investigation uncovered that Mr. Stokes had no weapon. No weapon was found on him when he was shot.

“The question becomes how two officers could receive a commendation and why the commendation report would state that he had a weapon and pointed it at two officers when their own (investigation) does not indicate a presence of a weapon.”

Officers had pursued Stokes and another man after two men at Power & Light reported a cellphone stolen.

The shooting was one of 47 fatal police shootings in Kansas City from 2005 through 2015 examined by The Star.

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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