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Days before the anniversary of his death, family of Donnie Sanders sues for $10 million

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
At a protest last year, Donnie Sanders' younger sister Reshonda Sanders said she wants to see the officer who killed her brother held accountable.

The family of Donnie Sanders, a Black man killed by a Kansas City police officer in 2020, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the officer who shot him.

The family of Donnie Sanders, a Black man killed by a Kansas City police officer nearly two years ago, is suing the Kansas City police board, accusing its members of failing to train police officers in the use of deadly force.

The federal lawsuit filed Thursday names the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and the officer who shot the 47-year-old. The suit, which seeks at least $10 million in damages, alleges that officer Blayne Newton used excessive force when he shot Sanders.

On March 12, 2020, Newton followed Sanders to an alley near Wabash and Prospect avenues after Sanders failed to signal as he was turning. According to police, Sanders got out of his car and ran. Newton fired five shots, hitting Sanders three times, in the abdomen, elbow and hip. He died the following morning.

Newton told investigators he thought Sanders had a gun. The day after his killing, the Kansas City Police Department said Sanders was not carrying a weapon, only a cellphone in his jacket pocket. Two witnesses said they saw Newton walking backwards while commanding Sanders to “stop,” “put it down” and “drop it” while Sanders walked toward him with his arm extended in Newton’s direction.

The Kansas City Star reported that Newton was also involved in the controversial arrest of Deja Stallings about six months after he shot Sanders. Newton was allegedly captured on video kneeling on Stallings, who was nine months pregnant.

In March 2021, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced she had insufficient evidence to charge Newton following an investigation by the Kansas City Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Capt. Leslie Foreman, a spokesperson for the KCPD, said the department does not comment on pending litigation.

S. Lee Merritt, one of the attorneys representing Sanders’ family, also represents the family of Cameron Lamb, the 26-year-old Black man fatally shot by Kansas City police detective Eric DeValkenaere in December 2019. DeValkenaere last week was sentenced to six years in prison after a Jackson County judge found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action.

Merritt could not be reached for comment.

Bek Shackelford-Nwanganga is a freelance reporter for KCUR 89.3.
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