Video shows Topeka police shooting man in the back; D.A. says no charges to be filed

Dominique White was shot and killed by Topeka police officers in late September. On Wednesday, the Shawnee County District Attorney announced no criminal charges would be filed in the incident.
Dominique White was shot and killed by Topeka police officers in late September. On Wednesday, the Shawnee County District Attorney announced no criminal charges would be filed in the incident.

Body camera footage of the police shooting of Topeka’s Dominique White was shown publicly for the first time on Wednesday.

The footage, for months the subject of tension between civic leaders and city officials, shows White fleeing from police. White was armed, police said, when officers responded to reports of shots being fired near Ripley Park in late September.

Also on Wednesday, Shawnee County District Attorney Michael Kagay announced he would not pursue criminal charges.

“It is my conclusion based on a review of all relevant facts and law, that the actions of the officers involved in this incident do not rise to the level of criminal conduct,” he said.

Kagay added that the shooting was justified because White hovered his hand over the pocket containing his gun, making him a threat to use deadly force, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Gillian Cassell-Stiga, a New York-based attorney representing the White family, released a statement saying White’s family was “incredibly disappointed” by the decision.

The statement included comments from White’s relatives.

“My son was shot in the back while attempting to run away from officers. The video shows that they did not need to shoot and kill him,” said Mary Theresa Wynne, White’s mother.

Cassell-Stiga said Kagay met with the family before announcing his decision. According to Cassell-Stiga’s statement, Kagay said that though it is “not clear that Dominique posed a threat to the officers,” he did not believe the law supported criminal liability.

The city did not release the officers’ names.

The Capital-Journal published a recording of the footage as it was played during the conference.

Kagay’s seven-page legal analysis described White, who had spent seven months in prison on a felony gun charge, as acting suspiciously after the officers responded to a call about shots being fired.

Kagay’s report said police found a firearm loaded with eight rounds of ammunition on White, along with two loaded magazines and a knife.

He had gloves in his possession that tested positive for gunshot residue, the report said. That and other evidence suggested White fired the shots that brought officers to the area, according to the report.

The report also said White’s blood later tested positive for the presence of marijuana and methamphetamine.

“It was Mr. White’s actions that escalated these events,” Kagay said in his report, adding later that “no reasonable judge or jury would find the actions of either officer involved in this matter to be unlawful.”

In the video, an officer approaches White, who places his hands on his head.

“We’re only here because we’re checking out a gunshot call, OK?” the officer says.

White says something indistinguishable, and the officer responds that he has “nothing to do with you and your chick. But I have everything to do with your guys’ safety and the community’s safety.”

The two seem to engage in an amicable conversation as another officer approaches and looks at White from behind.

The second officer motions to White’s pocket, seemingly pointing out White’s firearm to the first officer.

The second officer approaches White, who says, “Man, please don’t touch me.”

“Hold on,” an officer says.

“You have no reason to arrest me,” White says.

“He has a gun in his pocket,” an officer says twice as the first officer grabs White’s arm.

White resists and then flees, the footage shows. The officers then fire approximately six times at his back.

Community members cry out and quickly assemble nearby.

“Why would you do that?” a woman cries.

“He has a gun on him,” an officer yells back.

Tensions escalate as more officers arrive on scene and restrain the growing crowd.

The footage shows each of the officers’ perspectives as the incident unfolds.

“Had Topeka police exercised restraint, Dominique would be alive with us today,” said Molly White, White’s stepmother. “He would be at home spending the holidays with us, his family.”

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Dominique White was killed on Sept. 28, 2017, in Topeka. File photo

One of the officers once was involved in a crash while responding to a burglar alarm that resulted in a civilian’s death, according to the Capital-Journal.

The shooting sparked a camp out for several days outside Topeka police headquarters, Black Lives Matter rallies and a community forum facilitated by the Department of Justice.

The shooting was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department, which submitted its report to Kagay’s office last month.

Topeka city spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said the Police Department will complete its own follow-up internal investigation before deciding whether to release the officers’ names.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg