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Johnson County DA says Olathe East school officer was justified in shooting student

030822_SMP_Olathe-East-post-shooting-sign-NikkiLansford.jpg
Nikki Lansford
/
Shawnee Mission Post
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said the shooting on the morning of Friday, March 4, was a “sudden burst of violence without provocation."

The Johnson County District Attorney said Officer Erik Clark was justified in using deadly force against the student, Jaylon Elmore, who a witness said opened fire on Clark first. The officer also likely fired the shots that hit an assistant principal, but the DA is not filing charges.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe announced Friday that his office will not be filing criminal charges against an Olathe East school resource officer following a shooting inside the school’s office in March that left three people, including a student, an assistant principal and the officer, injured.

In a statement released Friday, Howe said Officer Erik Clark was justified in using deadly force against the student, Jaylon Elmore, 18, who a witness said opened fire on Clark first before Clark returned fire.

In his statement, Howe said the shooting on the morning of Friday, March 4, was a “sudden burst of violence without provocation” and that Clark told investigators he believed he was going to die when he saw muzzle flashes from Elmore’s gun and felt the impacts of the bullets on his body.

Howe said investigators determined both Clark and Elmore each fired four shots. Clark suffered four gunshot wounds, according to Howe.

Elmore suffered two gunshot wounds, one to his abdomen and one to his left thigh, and required weeks of hospitalization afterwards.

An assistant principal, Kaleb Stoppel, was shot twice in his thigh and forearm, and Howe says the shots that hit Stoppel were most likely fired by Clark.

“Under all the appropriate legal statutes and cases … it was reasonable for the officer to use deadly force against Jaylon Elmore,” Howe said in his statement.

The gun: Howe also identified the gun Elmore used in the shooting as a Polymer80 9 mm handgun.

Previously, Howe has suggested Elmore used a homemade “ghost gun” in the shooting, though it’s not clear from Friday’s statement whether the gun Howe identified as the one Elmore used was, in fact, custom- or homemade.

Howe said he would not be holding a press conference about the matter or making any more comments on the case.

School buses line up on 127th Street and Black Bob Road following a shooting at Olathe East High School on Friday, March 4, 2022.
Carlos Moreno
/
KCUR 89.3
School buses line up on 127th Street and Black Bob Road following a shooting at Olathe East High School on Friday, March 4, 2022.

Howe’s statement Friday laid out the sequence of events that led up to the shooting.

Stoppel and another female assistant principal pulled Elmore out of class following rumors that a male student had brought a gun to school that day.

Once they got to the office, Stoppel texted Clark, “Come to my office now.” Clark was aware of the rumors of a gun on campus and also knew Elmore was in Stoppel’s office, according to investigators.

The two assistant principals told Elmore multiple times they were going to have to search his backpack, which Elmore refused. Howe said the principals were within their authority and had “reasonable grounds” to demand to search Elmore’s backpack.

Moments after Clark entered the office, Howe says the female assistant principal saw Elmore pull a handgun out of his backpack, point it at Clark and shoot.

At that point, Clark sill had his service weapon holstered, according to Howe.

Clark also saw Elmore pull the gun from his backpack and begin firing at him, and Clark was able to draw his weapon and return fire.

“During the exchange of gunfire, the male assistant principal tackled Mr. Elmore and they fell to the floor, with the administrator on top," the report reads. "Only then did he see a gun in Mr. Elmore’s hand. The SRO was able to see that Mr. Elmore was no longer a threat and holstered his weapon. The SRO then began to treat his own injuries and give instructions to staff on treating Mr. Elmore’s injuries.”

Elmore is now charged with one count of attempted capital murder and remains in custody at the Johnson County Detention Center on $1 million bond. His next court appearance is set for August 17.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Kyle Palmer is the editor of the Shawnee Mission Post, a digital news outlet serving Northeast Johnson County, Kansas. He previously served as KCUR's news director and morning newscaster.
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