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Investigation of KS Police Killing of Teen Was Flawed, Experts Say

When 17-year-old John Albers posted threats of suicide on social media in January 2018, worried friends called 911. The high school student was backing his family minivan out of the garage when he was shot 13 times by an Overland Park, Ks., police officer. Within a month, in Johnson County prosecutor Steve Howe declared that the fatal shooting was justified and charges would not be filed. Every year police across the nation fatally shoot about 1,000 people. In each case, police — often from the same department — investigate the officer, and it’s rare that details are made public, the Washington Post reports. In the Albers case, something extremely unusual happened: the city of Overland Park released the entire police investigative file after being sued by KSHB-TV. In this case, the Overland Park police department did not investigate its own officer. Instead, Johnson County launches an Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Team after each such incident, using officers from other departments.

Written reports and photos from the investigation were made public, as well as videos, including dash-cam recordings that captured the shooting and the police interview with Clayton Jenison, the officer who shot Albers, who said he feared he’d be struck by the van. The nearly 500-page file showed that the investigation was concluded in six days. The Washington Post provided it to five law enforcement experts, veterans of policing, use-of-force investigations and prosecutions. All five found flaws with the investigation, and several said investigators approached the case favoring the perception of the officer, a stance the experts said is common in such cases. The Post’s analysis found steps missing from the investigative report, such as scene diagrams, that some experts said are typically performed in officer-involved shooting investigations.