Relatives of a man who was shot and killed by a Kansas City police officer in May were joined Thursday by community leaders, civil rights activists and clergy as they demanded an independent investigation.
Terrance M. Bridges, 30, was shot and killed by the officer May 26 in the 7000 block of Bellefontaine Avenue.
The police department has maintained that Bridges was a suspect in a carjacking, and that officers had responded to reports that Bridges forced his way into a home, engaged a man in an armed confrontation and then took the man’s vehicle.
Police said Bridges resisted arrest and an officer shot him during a struggle.
However the family, along with the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2), said Bridges did not pose a threat to the officer, was not armed when he was shot and was not involved in a carjacking.
“There were a lot of things they could’ve did. They didn’t have to kill him,” Bridges’ mother, Rotonya McGee, said during a news conference at Swope Parkway Christian Church. “I want justice. I want the officer accountable for what he did.”
Activists and relatives also asked that Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker file criminal charges against the officer in the shooting and for Missouri legislators to place the Kansas City police department under local control.
Family members traveled from Chicago to attend the news conference. They held large photos of Bridges, posters and placards that said “No Justice No Peace.”
In August, McGee and Bridges’ father filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Jackson County Circuit Court against the police officer who shot Bridges.
The lawsuit alleges the officer was not acting in lawful self-defense.
In a statement issued after the news conference, the police department said there has been no attempt to mislead the public about the shooting.
“The members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department mourn the loss of any life in our community, especially when an officer is involved in that loss of life,” police said.
“No police officer ever wants to be put in a situation in which they must decide whether to use deadly force. For those who have been forced to make that choice, it can have a life-long impact.”
Police said their version of what happened the day of the shooting remains unchanged.
Officers responded to the home on a report of a domestic violence disturbance involving a handgun.
Multiple 911 callers reported an armed man had forced his way into a home. The woman at the house said the man kidnapped her husband and carjacked their vehicle.
Arriving officers contacted the 911 callers and determined that an armed encounter had occurred between Bridges and the caller. While investigating the incident, Bridges returned to the home, police said.
According to police reports, Bridges ran when the officer at the scene tried to arrest him. The officer shot Bridges shortly after catching up with him south of the home.
Police said they could not comment more on the shooting because it remains under investigation by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We understand the grief that the family members of Terrence Bridges feel over the unexpected loss of their loved one. Their pain is real,” the police statement said.
“We respect the judicial process and must allow it to run its course without interference.”
In the lawsuit filed by McGee, Bridges’ mother, the officer is identified as John Doe.
A police spokesman said the officer is on active duty and is assigned to the patrol division.
After the shooting, McGee said, she was not allowed to identify her son’s body. She was told by police that Bridges had already been identified.
McGee said she felt disrespected by police. The only time she was able to see her son’s body was at his funeral.
“My baby’s life mattered and I want Kansas City to know what happened to him,” she said. “There’s a cold silence here, that I want it to be broken.”
Community leaders said the incident is the latest police shooting of a black man in the Kansas City area that deserves more scrutiny.
“Here we go again,” said the Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City.
“For those of us who question why this generation and this community has no respect, has no expectations that justice and concern for our community exists within law enforcement: Take notice, this is the reason why.”
Howard pointed to the deaths of Dantae R. Franklin, 24, who was shot and killed by police in August 2017 at 34th Street and Bellefontaine Avenue, and Ryan Stokes who was fatally shot by police in 2013.
“These are hard times for black people in Kansas City,” Howard said. “But I tell you that truth crushed to the earth will rise again and no lie will live forever.”
After the news conference Thursday, relatives and activists traveled to the location where Bridges was killed.
“Had it been one life over the past five years then that would have been one life too many,” Williams said. “But it’s been a repeated situation that has taken place and we need to do something about it.”