The Barber County undersheriff who fired a fatal beanbag round that killed a 42-year-old Sun City man on Oct. 6 was the only officer at the shooting not wearing a body camera, witnesses testified Friday.
Undersheriff Virgil Brewer testified that he left his body camera on the sun visor in his car before he fired on Steven Myers. Brewer, who was hired in January, said he hadn’t read all of the sheriff’s office policies.
The attorney for Myers’ wife said that according to the policy, all officers at the shooting should have been wearing body cameras and should have kept them on throughout the incident and the ensuing investigation, which lasted for hours in the back yard of a Sun City home where Myers died.
After the hearing, Michael Kuckelman, attorney for Kristina Myers, said that probably if the sheriff’s office had “complied with their own policies and procedures that day, Steven Myers would be alive.” He would not elaborate.
Through his attorney, Jeff Jordan, Sheriff Lonnie Small has provided six videos to media and the Myers family.
None of the images viewed by The Eagle appear to show a completely clear view of the shooting.
Kuckelman has contended that Myers was not armed and was complying with a command to come out of a shed when he was hit in the chest by a beanbag round fired from a shotgun at close distance.
Sheriff’s officers were responding to a report that Myers was intoxicated, armed with a “long gun” and threatening people outside Buster’s bar in Sun City.
Judge Francis Meisenheimer told the packed courtroom — filled with Myers’ relatives and supporters — that the purpose of Friday’s hearing was limited to determining whether all of the videos of the shooting had been given over by the sheriff’s office. The Eagle received a copy of the videos on Wednesday after requesting them under the Kansas Open Records Act.
Small testified that all video has been provided to Myers’ family or others requesting it.
Kuckelman used the hearing to ask questions about why Brewer, who fired the beanbag, was the only one of four sheriff’s officers at the scene not wearing a body camera.
Asked if he had read all of the department policies, Brewer responded, “Not in its entirety, no.”
Asked why he didn’t have his body camera on, Brewer said it was “affixed to the sun visor” in his vehicle.
Brewer also said his vehicle was the only one without a dash camera and that he hasn’t had a dash camera since he joined the sheriff’s office in January.
Kuckelman then questioned Small, who referred to the beanbag as a “less-than-lethal” weapon. Experts refer to it as a “less lethal” weapon because it can be fatal at close range when fired into the chest.
Small said he purposely turned off his body camera after the shooting “after what I believed ... the whole incident was over.” After he stopped the camera that evening, he remained at the scene until the morning, he said.
Asked if he told other sheriff’s officers to turn off their cameras after the shooting, he said that one deputy asked if could shut it off after some significant time had passed after the shooting, “and I said yes, we’re done here.”
A future trial, not yet scheduled, will deal with Kuckelman’s allegations that the sheriff’s office violated the Open Records Act by not providing copies of videos sooner.