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Federal jury clears Kansas City police officer of wrongdoing in 2010 fatal shooting

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Kenny Gurley, shot by police in 2010.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed on behalf of the family of Kenny Gurley, shot by police in 2010. File photo

A federal court jury on Friday ruled in favor of a Kansas City police officer who fatally shot a Grandview man eight years ago.

Kenny Gurley was killed on Dec. 29, 2010, in the back yard of a house in the Ruskin Heights area of south Kansas City.

His family had filed a wrongful death suit, and on Friday after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court, jurors sided with the officer.

The shooting occurred after someone had called police that day to report prowlers inside a vacant house.

The caller and two officers who responded to the call did not know that Gurley had permission to be inside the house that he was interested in buying.

The officers testified that Gurley, 40, was carrying a metal pole in each hand as he walked toward one of the officers. He raised them in a threatening manner and was six to eight feet away from the officer who shot him.

Gurley’s cousin testified that he had one pole in his hand, a metal curtain rod, and that his hands were raised in surrender when he was shot.

A firefighter who was called to the scene after the shooting testified that he removed the curtain rod from Gurley’s hand, but didn’t see him with a second larger pole, which police said he had when he was shot.

Daniel Thomas, the attorney for Gurley’s family, told jurors in closing arguments Friday morning that the family had been waiting “eight long years for justice.”

He said that the officers did not follow proper procedures and standards during the incident. He also argued that the officer who shot Gurley should have tried less lethal methods first, such as a Taser or pepper spray.

Thomas told jurors to send a message that police officers are not above the law.

Assistant Attorney General Diane Peters represented the officer and argued that he feared for his life when he fired the two shots that killed Gurley.

The officer testified that he didn’t trust the effectiveness of the Taser, and Peters told jurors, “He was not going to risk his life on using that Taser.”

“We do not expect an officer to take a blow to the head,” she said.

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