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Wyandotte County district attorney won't charge police in April killing of Amaree’ya Henderson

Amaree’ya Henderson's family members, Tamika Manning, De'Shaunna Hayes-Hand and Jaden Hand show support for his family at a May 7 protest in front of Kansas City, Kansas Police headquarters.
Jodi Fortino
KCUR 89.3
Amaree’ya Henderson's family members, Tamika Manning, De'Shaunna Hayes-Hand and Jaden Hand show support for his family at a May 7 protest in front of Kansas City, Kansas Police headquarters.

District Attorney Mark Dupree said Amaree’ya Henderson refused the officer’s commands to stop his car, which caught the officer in between the driver’s door and Henderson. Kansas law allows the use of deadly force if an officer is in danger and fears for his life, Dupree said.

A Kansas City, Kansas, police officer who shot and killed a 25-year-old DoorDash delivery man will not be charged, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree announced on Friday.

The case has been closely watched by social justice advocates and the community.

Kansas law allows an officer to use deadly force if he is in “immediate danger of serious bodily harm or death,” Dupree said in a statement. Amaree’ya Henderson refused to obey the officer’s commands to stop his car, and the officer was caught between the driver’s side door and Henderson, he said.

“The suspect continued to drive at a high rate of speed. The suspect refused commands to stop the vehicle and the officer discharged his weapon,” Dupree said.

Henderson's family, who saw the body-cam video, released a statement late Friday contradicting the DA's version of events.

Henderson’s mother, Pauletta Johnson, and his girlfriend, Shakira Hill, said Dupree's decision failed to factor in all of the circumstances surrounding the traffic stop.

“(The officer) was in no danger. He made choices that were in direct violation of the use-of-force policies in place to protect citizens and himself,” the statement said.

Henderson was killed on April 26 after making his last delivery in the Argentine neighborhood. He had called his mother, telling her he was scared, and they were on FaceTime when Henderson was shot. Henderson’s girlfriend was in the passenger seat.

Early on, Henderson’s family demanded to see the body-cam video from that night, which Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Karl Oakman promised he would show them. In his statement sent Friday, Dupree said he and the police department showed the family that video.

“The body cam shows a disgusting display of excessive force, and the unlawful, unnecessary killing of another young, unarmed Black man,” said the Henderson family's attorney, Nuru Witherspoon.

Social justice advocates continue to demand that the body-cam video be released to the public.

Justice for Wyandotte has filed a request to view the footage in its entirety, said Nikki Richardson, a co-founder of the social justice group.

"The swiftness of this decision is unusual for us since we have been repeatedly told that officer-involved shooting investigations require months," she said.

A KCKPD representative didn't return an email requesting comment.

MORE2, another social justice group, reiterated that their members also want to see the video.

"Were existing policies and procedures followed? We do not know as no footage has been released to the public," MORE2's statement said. "Are existing policies and procedures sufficient? Law enforcement departments around the nation have recognized that shooting into a moving vehicle does not increase safety, but instead turns the vehicle into a dangerous weapon to bystanders in the area."

In a departure from what KCKPD has done in the past, the shooting was investigated by the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, an outside agency. KCPD’s only comment on the case was that a “confrontation” arose and the unnamed officer shot Henderson.

Decades of corruption in the KCK Police Department have been documented by the FBI and in new federal charges against former Detective Roger Golubski.

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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