Crime

Prosecutor will reopen 2017 case of deputy who shot and killed man at Raytown Walmart

Update: Soon after the prosecutor’s decision was announced, The Star obtained surveillance video of the shooting. That story is posted here.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Thursday that her office will re-examine the 2017 fatal shooting by a sheriff’s deputy of a man accused of shoplifting at a Raytown Walmart.

The decision reversed the statement given by Baker’s office Wednesday, when a spokesman said prosecutors had already reviewed the killing of Donald Sneed III and decided not to file criminal charges.

Questions about the 2017 shooting arose after the deputy, Lauren Michael of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, was charged Wednesday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in a more recent shooting this summer.

The charges stemmed from an Aug. 8 incident in which Michael shot a woman in the back while trying to arrest her for riding a scooter the wrong way at 37th and Main streets in Kansas City.

In both shootings, Michael claimed she shot the suspect only after the person took her stun gun away and used it on her.

This time, investigators cast doubt on that claim, leading to the charges.

On hearing that news, Sneed’s family spoke out Wednesday, calling for Baker to reopen their case and file additional charges against Michael.

Baker’s office said Thursday that prosecutors will look at the case again.

“Because there are similarities to the 2017 shooting, we thought it would be best to look at it again,” said Michael Mansur, a spokesman for Baker.

Donald Sneed
Family of Donald Sneed III wants Lauren Michael, the Jackson County Sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed him in 2017 charged with murder. Courtesy of Jermaine Wooten

Charges in recent shooting

In charging documents, prosecutors questioned Michael’s story that the victim in the Aug. 8 shooting in Midtown, Brittany Simeck, used her stun gun against her.

Prosecutors allege Michael shot Simeck several times in the back and buttocks as the woman tried run away.

Court documents said there was no proof that Simeck was armed or had used the stun gun on Michael.

Both cartridges from the stun gun were found to have been used within a three-second time span, which did not leave enough time for a physical altercation, prosecutors allege.

Immediately after the shooting, Michael spoke to a supervisor and compared it with the 2017 shooting of Sneed, saying “I am not as comfortable with this one as the last one,” according to court documents.

Lauren Michael.jpg
Jackson County Deputy Lauren Michael was presented a medal of valor in 2018 by then-Sheriff Mike Sharp for her role during an altercation with shoplifting suspect.

Michael has been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the criminal case, which is a standard practice when criminal charges are filed, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté said.

2017 shooting

Michael was working off-duty security at the Walmart when Donald Sneed was stopped by employees who suspected him of shoplifting.

Michael told investigators she shot Sneed after he took her stun gun away from her and shocked her with it.

Jermaine Wooten, an attorney representing Sneed’s family, said Sneed never used Michael’s stun gun against her. Michael used her stun gun on Sneed multiple times as he tried to get away, Wooten said.

“Mr. Sneed did not tase her, he did get control of her taser to stop her from tasing him,” Wooten said. “The taser was never discharged when it got into Mr. Sneed’s hands.”

Walmart security footage, provided by Wooten, shows Sneed running out of the story at 10300 E. State Route 350 in Raytown before being tackled by a man.

The men fight, and a woman eventually steps in to help, as Michael appears to use her stun gun against Sneed multiple times.

After an altercation between the four, the man and woman appear to have Sneed pinned to the ground when Michael pulls her gun and begins shooting.

The sheriff’s office later said Sneed had used Michael’s stun gun against her, prompting her to fire. Then-sheriff Mike Sharp awarded her a medal of valor for her actions.

Wooten said that when Michael shot Sneed, two people were holding him down by his arms and legs. Wooten said Michael shot Sneed him multiple times while he rolled over.

“He was only trying to get up and get away like the other young lady was trying to get up and ultimately did not get away,” Wooten said.

The only difference, Wooten said, between Simeck’s case and Sneed’s, was that Sneed was unable to get away.

Wooten said the family members he had spoken to were pleased to hear the case was being reopened.

“If this had been done properly up front then the young lady who was shot several weeks ago, that would not even have occurred,” Sneed said.

Wooten said he believes the prosecutors office did not look closely enough at the case when it was initially reviewed and deferred to Michael’s status as an officer.

Jackson County Sheriff

In the 2017 shooting of Sneed, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting itself, instead of bringing in an outside agency.

The investigation resulted in no charges.

Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté said Thursday that he had not yet seen the video, and noted that the shooting occurred before he took office.

He also declined to comment on the prosecutor’s decision to reopen the case.

“Until I have an opportunity to ascertain first-hand information from the prosecutor’s office about the announcement to reopen the case I will refrain from making a comment,” Forté said.

Forté, who previously served at Police Chief in Kansas City, said that, since he was elected sheriff he has asked other law enforcement agencies to investigate shootings by deputies.

The shooting in August that resulted in charges against Michael was investigated by the sheriff’s office, but Kansas City Police Department crime scene investigators collected and processed evidence.

“Other agencies will investigate deputy-involved shootings to reduce or eliminate perceptions of biased investigations,” he said.

Last October, Forté asked Independence police to investigate a deputy-involved shooting in that city when a sheriff’s deputy shot a suspect after a vehicle pursuit.

The chase ended at 39th and Woodland, where the deputy shot the suspect. Police said at the time they had not yet determined what led up to the shooting.

The findings of the Independence police investigation have not been released.

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.
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