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Lenexa Police Officers Will Not Face Charges For Fatal Shooting Of Tennessee Man At Hotel In May

Steve-Howe-3.jpg
Leah Wankum
/
Shawnee Mission Post
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced Friday his office will not file criminal charges against two Lenexa police officers after an investigation found they were justified in using deadly force when they shot and killed Darren Chandler of Tennessee during an encounter at a hotel in May. Howe said the officers believed a woman inside a room with Chandler was in imminent danger when they kicked the room's door in and exchanged gunfire with Chandler.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said officers were justified in the shooting because they believed the man would have harmed a woman in his hotel room.

The two officers involved in the fatal May 25 shooting of Darren Dejuan Chandler at a Lenexa hotel will not face criminal charges, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced Friday morning.

Howe presented body camera clips and audio that he says show that the officers were justified in the shooting because they believed Chandler, who was from the Nashville, Tenn., area, would have continued to harm a woman in his hotel room had they not interfered.

In a summary of the Officer Involved Shooting Investigative Team released Friday, Howe and police officials outlined details of the incident.

Lenexa Police Chief Dawn Layman said the incident was harrowing for the three officers who were called to the scene that morning. The two who fired their service weapons will soon be able to return to work, she said.

“This is a tragic event. Any time anybody has to take a life it’s tragic,” Layman said. “Just watching it again here today makes my heart pump very fast. By the grace of God we’re thankful we are not attending an officer’s funeral.”

Incident details

The incident occurred shortly after 5 a.m. on May 25.

Officers had been called to the Extended Stay America hotel at 8015 Lenexa Drive after multiple guests there reported a loud “physical disturbance” between a man and a woman in a room on the first floor.

The body cam video Howe played Friday show officers knocking on the room’s door and saying, “Police Department come open the door now.”

One officer who had obtained a key card at the front desk tried it in the door, but the officers’ entry was blocked by a manual latch.

After another warning, the officers kicked open the door, at which point the firing began.

Howe also showed a slowed-down image that he said showed Chandler standing inside the room with a gun pointing toward the door.

The smoke visible suggested that Chandler fired first, Howe said. Chandler fired two rounds, Howe said, after which an officer fired while backing up.

Chandler was killed in an ensuing exchange of gunfire.

According to the OSIT report summary Howe released today, the officers said they heard a male whom they described as being “aggressive” and a woman’s voice say, “Please stop.”

Dawn-Layman-2-450x300.jpg
Leah Wankum
/
Shawnee Mission Post
“This is a tragic event. Any time anybody has to take a life it’s tragic,” Lenexa Police Chief Dawn Layman said Friday.

“But the woman became quiet when the man began asking questions of police, and that caused officers to become concerned,” Howe said.

An officer involved said he was concerned that he no longer heard sounds from the woman, who was described as Chandler’s girlfriend. Howe said she later told investigators Chandler was strangling her.

After the first shots were fired, Chandler emerged from the room with a gun, the report said. He was then shot and dropped to the ground.

Chandler died from three gunshot wounds that injured his neck, abdomen, forearm and leg. The incident lasted 55 seconds from the officers’ first knock on the door, the report said.

Chandler’s body also tested positive for several substances, including methamphetamine and morphine, and his urine showed positive results for a number of other substances including PCP, heroin and fentanyl, the OISIT report says.

The police account is backed up by the woman who rented the room, according to the report. She told investigators that Chandler grabbed his gun after officers knocked and that Chandler shot directly at an officer once the door was open.

The word “police” was heard once on the clips presented, but Howe said he is confident the room’s occupants knew it was the police knocking because of the volume of the officer’s shout.

“I think it was pretty clear. He didn’t whisper that,” Howe said. “I have no doubt everybody in the room knew what was going on outside,” he said.

Likewise, Howe said the officers’ belief that the woman was in imminent danger justified their action, rather than a standoff as has sometimes happened in other domestic violence cases.

‘We are being transparent’

The shooting happened on the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

As such, it prompted questions by activists about the transparency of the OISIT investigation into the death of Chandler, who was Black. There were calls at the time to immediately release the body cam footage.

Howe and Layman said Friday that investigators are trying to be as transparent as possible about this case.

Layman said the investigators had to do a “balancing act” between rapid disclosure and premature release of evidence.

The summary released Friday does contain some information on gun types and calibers, but Howe said he does not plan to release the full crime lab report.

He said he wanted to avoid making a “snuff film” available for the morbidly curious.

“I just do not believe in providing information just because people want to see it,” he said during Friday’s news conference.

Even a report with redacted personal information would be of little value, Howe said.

“I don’t see the value in it other than voyeuristic views of certain individuals,” he said. “We are being transparent about this. We have provided some of the best evidence for you to view as to what happened that day, and I think that’s being transparent.”

This story was originally published in the Shawnee Mission Post.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Contact her at roxieham@gmail.com.
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