OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The family of an Overland Park teen fatally shot by police has filed a lawsuit, arguing the officer used excessive force.
John Albers, 17, died as a result of a shooting on Jan. 20. Police were initially called to the Albers’ home for a welfare check. According to 911 dispatch audio, the caller said Albers was chatting with a friend on FaceTime, saying he’d been taking pills and drinking. Albers allegedly said he was done with life and threatened to hurt himself.
Video footage shows, as Officer Clayton Jenison approaches the Albers’ home, a van driven by the teen backs out of the garage. Jenison then fires his service weapon twice, and the van stops briefly before whipping around so it is facing forward in the driveway. When Albers backs up, Jenison is behind the van. When Jenison ss at the side of the van, he fires 11 more shots.
An official investigation by law enforcement determined the shooting was justified, and charges were not filed. Jenison resigned from the police department shortly after the shooting citing personal reasons.
The lawsuit names Jenison and the City of Overland Park as defendants, alleging the officer used excessive force in the shooting, and that the city had inadequate policies in place. The suit calls for a jury trial into the fatal shooting.
The 17-year-old’s family says that Jenison, who had not received any Crisis Intervention Training prior to that day, and another officer who were sent to the scene did not attempt to knock on the Albers’ door or announce their presence. After a few seconds, the lawsuit says the second officer goes back to his patrol vehicle.
The lawsuit says as the garage door began to rise, Jenison grabbed his gun and walked toward the garage. The lawsuit argues there was no reason for the officer to un-holster his weapon.
Contradicting the Officer-Involved Shooting Team’s investigation, the Albers family alleges neither Jenison nor any other officer was not in the path of the van or in danger when he fired his gun at the vehicle.
As for why the van did not stop, the lawsuit says Jenison’s first two shots made the 17-year-old incapable of maintaining control of the vehicle, causing the van to spin around and roll into the street.
An autopsy confirmed Albers was hit by gunfire six times and was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, according to the lawsuit.
At a news conference in February, Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez addressed questions about whether the officer was actually in immediate danger.
“He was out of the way at one point, but as you saw the van turned around and came back at him,” Donchez said. “One of the misconceptions is that if you are alongside a vehicle you are no longer subject to danger. That’s not remotely true. One cut of the wheel to one side or other can take you down with the side of the vehicle. Don’t let the fact that he’s alongside the vehicle fool anyone into believing that he’s no longer in danger.”
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said at the February news conference that it’s well established that a vehicle can be used as a deadly weapon, but he declined to speculate if the teen was deliberately trying to draw the officer’s fire in a “suicide by cop” attempt.
A spokesperson for the City of Overland Park released the following statement: “We are aware of the lawsuit and will respond as appropriate in court.”
Police released two viewpoints of the of the Jan. 20 shooting, which you can watch in the video player below.