May 18, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Despite Pressure, DA Refuses to Press Charges Against Topeka Cops Involved in Fatal Shooting

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In the face of extended protests by members of Black Lives Matter and other activists, Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay refused to press charges against two Topeka officers who shot and killed armed suspect Dominique White in a Topeka park in September.

Complicating the matter was a fact that the Topeka Capital-Journal chose to put in its headline: “Video shows Topeka officers shooting Dominique White in back as he flees after struggle for gun.” (Italics added) White was running from the officers when shot.

The Kansas City Star headline was more inflammatory, “Video shows Topeka police shooting man in the back; D.A. says no charges to be filed.” The Star coverage has been more inflammatory all along. A Star article in November all but indicted the police involved: “Kansas man killed by cops was shot in back. Black Lives Matter: ‘People like killing us.’” The Star article was, as typical, all about race.

Lost in the rush to sanctify White and sacrifice the cops is any reflection on White’s descent into crime.

The Star reporter quoted White’s mother as saying, that her son “walked through this world as a black man.” Although the mother is white, the thrust of the article is that the light-skinned White was killed because “he was seen by everyone as a black man.” To its credit, the Cap-J article does not mention White’s race or that of the police officers who are both white and male.

Kagay refused to press charges in no small part because of what the officers’ body cameras showed. Responding to a shots fired report in Topeka’s Ripley Park, they ask White to stop, and he initially refuses. The videos pick up with White bent at the waist as though struggling to catch his breath. The two officers approach him very civilly and ask if he is armed. He denies it. The one officer circles behind him, however, and notices the gun in his front pocket.

When the officers move in to arrest White, he resists and then runs away reaching towards his back pocket as he runs. Each officer fires four shots, three of which connect, one in the heart. As the body cams showed, White was carrying a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and a knife. The pistol had a round in the chamber and seven rounds in the magazine. White had two more loaded magazines in his pocket.

“Would a reasonable officer believe (White) was a threat to use deadly force? Unequivocally, I believe yes,” Kagay said. As Kagay explained, White had reason to run. At the time, he was on supervised release following conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. By carrying a gun White was violating both state and federal law.

One suspects that once the weather warms more protests will follow. At least certain media will celebrate the protests, and police in the region will think twice before intervening in black neighborhoods when there has been a report of shots fired. They cannot be sure that other prosecutors, under similar pressure, will have the courage not to press charges.

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