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Concerns Raised Over 3 Deaths in 2 Separate Police Shootings

The shootings all happened Thursday afternoon in Kansas City.

June 15, 2018 - 12:44 pm
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police shot and killed two men who were fighting in a downtown square, less than an hour after city officers fatally shot a woman reportedly seen brandishing a sword, raising concerns about police tactics and how the investigations will be handled.

The shootings all happened Thursday afternoon. Police Chief Rick Smith acknowledged it was unusual to have two deadly force incidents in such a short time span, given that Kansas City police typically count two to five fatal officer-involved shootings per year. The Kansas City Star reported Smith said the officers "did what they thought was necessary."

"I just wanted people in this city to know our officers are dedicated to go out here and protect the citizens of this city. Both incidents unfolded protecting other citizens," Smith said.

The Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City, said he has many questions and isn't confident they will be answered by a police department investigation.

"It is clear to us that the accountability is not coming from within," Howard said. "There has absolutely got to be an independent review board."

Few details have been released about the shootings, including the victims' names. The first death happened when police shot a woman who barricaded herself in a shed for hours after someone called 911 to report she was outside in a residential area with a sword. Police Capt. Lionel Colón says he doesn't know if the woman was armed when she was killed. He also says he doesn't know if the woman had exited the shed or was shot while still inside. Colón told The Associated Press via email that he will have more information about the sword later Friday.

Colón earlier said he was "very confident (the shooting) was a last-resort situation to ensure the safety of the public."

But Robert King, who lives nearby, questioned why police didn't use nonlethal force to subdue the woman.

"We don't have tear gas to make her drop?" King asked. "I don't care if she had a spear — think about it."

The victims of the second shooting had reportedly been fighting over a golf cart and a gun in Barney Allis Plaza in downtown Kansas City, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the first shooting. Hundreds of professors and teachers in town for an event at the nearby Kansas City Convention Center sought shelter in a basement as the melee erupted.

The Rev. Howard said he learned about the police shootings after meeting the families of four people killed in a deadly police chase earlier this month. The chase started in nearby Independence when the driver of a stolen vehicle fled and ended with the deadly crash at a Kansas City intersection.

"Jesus," he said. "It's just fatality on top of fatality."