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Prosecutor says Olathe officer was 'justified' in killing man with mental illness

Olathe Police Chief Mike Butaud, left, and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe played 911 audio and showed police body-cam video on Wednesday of the shooting of Brandon Lynch, 27, from December 31, 2022.
Peggy Lowe
KCUR 89.3
Olathe Police Chief Mike Butaud, left, and Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe played 911 audio and showed police body-cam video on Wednesday of the shooting of Brandon Lynch, 27, from December 31, 2022.

Brandon Lynch, 27, was shot three times by Olathe Police after responding to a 911 call from Lynch's sister on New Year’s Eve 2022, saying he was threatening her. He had a knife, a Taser and a history with police.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Wednesday that he will not file charges against an Olathe Police officer who shot a man with mental illness three times on New Year’s Eve 2022.

The officer shot and killed Brandon Lynch, 27, on December 31 after responding to a 911 call saying Lynch had already hurt his sister with a knife and that he was also armed with a Taser. In an incident that lasted less than three minutes, two officers repeatedly told Lynch to put down the weapons. One of the officers used a Taser on Lynch to no effect, and ultimately shot him after he refused to obey the commands.

Howe said the officer, who had been involved in a previous arrest of Lynch, was “justified” in his use of deadly force.

“My job is not to do a hindsight 20/20 analysis. That is not the test: could he have done something else?” Howe said. “The test is the steps he took on that day in question, was it reasonable based on all the facts?”

Lynch's family released a statement saying they were "immensely disappointed" with Howe's decision.

"We disagree with the determination that the officer’s use of deadly force was reasonable and will continue to pursue justice on his behalf," the statement said.

Howe played the 911 call and showed body camera video to reporters Wednesday.

Lynch’s sister, identified only as “M.L.," lived at the Olathe home. She called 911 at 11:10 p.m., saying her brother had just attacked her, she was bleeding, and that he punched her in the face.

“He’s going on a rampage every day saying how he wants to kill everyone in the house,” M.L. is heard saying on the 911 tape.

After telling Lynch several times to drop the knife and the Taser, the officer told him he was under arrest. As officers backed away from him, Lynch followed them down a hallway, telling the officer he was refusing to do every “single thing you say.”

An officer Tasered Lynch, but it had no effect on him. When the officer continued to order Lynch to drop his weapon, the video indicates he told them “you better shoot me in the head right now you punk!” After an officer told Lynch that if he came toward him, he would be shot, he then shot Lynch a second time with a Taser round. That didn’t stop him either, according to the DA’s transcript.

Finally, Lynch raised his left hand, which held a knife, and took steps toward one of the officers. The officer shot three times, killing Lynch. The entire incident took two minutes and 50 seconds.

The officer later told investigators that he felt he had to shoot Lynch because he feared Lynch would leave the house, where he could hurt his sister and others in the neighborhood. Seeing the knife, the officer told investigators that he knew his bulletproof vest wouldn’t withstand stabbing.

“I was scared. I distinctly remember bracing and being, like, this is where I get stabbed,” the officer said, according to a DA’s transcript. “So that’s when I fired…”

Howe said Johnson County law enforcement typically has a mental health expert respond to scenes like the one at Lynch’s home, but this one was violent and then ended much too quickly to call another responder.

“It’s tragic for them to have to use that deadly force,” Howe said of the police. “It's tragic for the family and we're hoping that our continued work towards redirecting people away from the criminal justice system and to assistance through mental health, Johnson County's efforts will continue to lower the likelihood of these types of tragic incidents.”

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
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