Independence officer-involved shooting results in injury of two individuals
A man who was shot by Independence police on Jan. 30 has died, according to Jackson County prosecutors, but neither they nor police will say who the man was or when he died.
The man had been hospitalized for some time after the shooting, in which witnesses said he brought a gun to a Dollar General store and pounded on a glass door before being injured in a shootout with police.
In response to a reporter's inquiry about the shooting, Jackson County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Mike Mansur said on April 5 that the man had died on an earlier date and there were no charges against him. But he would not say what the earlier date was.
On Tuesday, Mansur said prosecutors would not discuss the shooting further while the case remains open.
"That officer-involved shooting remains under review by our office," Mansur wrote in an email. "As a result, I will not be commenting on the incident or the review."
The Independence Police Department, which conducted its own investigation, has refused to release the man's name or date of death or answer any other questions. It has referred all inquiries to prosecutors.
Ultimately, the man's name likely will be revealed when the investigation is finished and prosecutors make a decision about whether anyone will face charges. In recent years, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has published detailed letters explaining those decisions.
But open government and police accountability advocates bristled at the idea that police could shoot a person and go more than two months without saying who they are or when they died.
"This is the kind of thing where we need to know what's happening, that's first and foremost," said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2 (Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity). "Any time information is withheld from the public, that should alarm the public. They work for us."
The incident at the Dollar General at 10601 E. 23rd Street South began shortly after 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 30 when officers were called about an armed man at the store, according to Independence police.
Police also shot and injured another man who said he had rushed to the store to try to protect his wife and 4-year-old daughter huddling in fear inside.
That man, Mike Becker, later identified himself in interviews with reporters.
Becker brought a handgun with him to the store. But when police arrived, he dropped it and put his hands up, witnesses said. Still, an officer shot him in the hip with a rifle before gunfire broke out between officers and the armed suspect.
After the shooting, police said only that officers had shot two armed people.
Becker said he was angry that police shot him and upset that they didn't say anything publicly to clear him as a criminal suspect. He has not been charged with a crime.
The shooting was reportedly captured on surveillance video. The video has not been made public while the investigation remains open.
Usually when a person is shot and killed by police, their name will be made public within a few days. That was the case in three of the Independence Police Department's four fatal officer-involved shootings in 2017.
In the fourth, the injured person died weeks later and then was named by police.
Until the investigation into the Jan. 30 shooting is closed, the law does not require police to release more information, said Jean Maneke, an attorney for the Missouri Press Association who deals with open records law.
But Maneke criticized the reluctance to release the dead man's name, saying the intent of withholding a person's identity usually is to protect them from harm.
"I fail to see what benefit is gained by law enforcement in protecting the name of this victim," she said. "He's dead. He's not at risk."
In officer-involved shootings, like other incidents, police departments in Missouri must release an incident report shortly after a shooting. But those incident reports often contain little information beyond the time, date, location and type of incident.
Missouri law does not require departments to identify people shot by police in the incident report, Maneke said.
An investigative report with more information eventually becomes public when the case is closed, but it can take months for police shooting cases to work their way through the legal system.