The Jackson County prosecutor in Missouri will not charge the officer who shot and killed Donnie Sanders in March 2020, according to a statement from Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Sanders, who was unarmed, was shot on March 12, 2020, by an unnamed Kansas City Missouri Police (KCPD) officer, and died the next day. An independent investigation into the shooting was launched by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office (JCPO), and reviewed by the Missouri Highway Patrol (MHP).
On Monday, JCPO announced that their review of the shooting had concluded and JCPO opted not to charge the officer. The review “concluded that the evidence collected is insufficient to support charges against the officer.”
“An examination of the known circumstances conclusively (shows) that the State would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Officer used excessive force, as defined in Missouri statutes and corresponding case law,” Baker said in a letter Monday summarizing her office’s decision.
Police initially attempted to stop Sanders because he was suspected of speeding, and then failed to use a signal before turning, according to the police account Baker cited in her letter.
Reshonda Sanders, the sister of the victim, told the Kansas City Star she finds it hard to believe that the officer was not charged. “I don’t understand how you get pulled over for speeding or, you know, an illegal left or right turn and lose my life. That’s just, it’s unheard of.”
“We’ve lost our brother for nothing. No citation, no ticket, like what did he do? He didn’t cause no harm to that officer. That officer’s life was in no type of harm or danger, none whatsoever but now Donnie’s life is gone now,” she said. CNN has reached out to Reshonda and has not heard back.
The prosecutor’s office said the KCPD officer suspected Sanders of speeding, and attempted to pull Sanders over for various traffic violations, on the night of March 12, 2020. After Sanders drove into a dead-end alley, a police dashcam shows the officer exit his vehicle and run around to the driver’s side of Sanders’s vehicle. The officer can be heard telling dispatch that Sanders “is bailing on foot.” Though the video does not show what happens next, the officer can be heard on dashcam audio yelling “stop” numerous times. The officer yells “show me your hands” and yells at Sanders to “get on the ground.”
Sanders can be heard responding to the officer, but it is unclear what he says, “perhaps due to the Civilian’s distance away from the Officer,” Baker says. In an interview days after the shooting, the officer told investigators “that the Civilian was saying things such as ‘I’m gonna shoot you! I’m gonna get you! Better kill me, I’m gonna kill you!’,” according to Baker.
Members of the review committee attempted, “to enhance the sound quality to learn what the Civilian was saying,” which included working with a sound expert. “But the Committee was unable to further discern the statements,” JCPO said.
The officer and witnesses to the incident say Sanders “held up his hand toward the Officer ‘as if he’s got a gun,'” and “right before the shooting, the Civilian sprinted toward him as he backed up,” according to Baker.
The officer discharged his weapon five times, striking Sanders three times, once in the abdomen, hip, and back of the right elbow. No weapon was found on or near Sanders, though he did have a cell phone in his pocket, the prosecutor said.
In the statement, Baker said, “In this case, I took additional steps in the review to ensure all evidence was collected, analyzed and reported. We attempted to enhance the audio recordings from the night of the shooting. We repeatedly canvassed the scene of the shooting for more witnesses, as recently as last week.”
“I sought outside reviews by two other district attorney offices that have highly developed use of force teams. We shared the investigation with them and asked for their independent review. Both offices determined no charges should be filed in this matter,” Baker said.
In a statement to CNN, KCPD said they “continue to mourn any loss of life in our community, especially when a police officer is involved in that loss.”
“As with any use of force incident, we review the actions taken by officers to see where we could improve,” KCPD said.