Federal authorities are initiating a civil rights inquiry into the shooting death of a Kansas teenager who died at the hands of police officers in 2018.
The FBI told reporters it will “collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner.” Investigators would not comment, however, on the reason or focus of the review, citing its ongoing nature.
The case regards the killing of John Albers, a white teenager from the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. On the night of his death, the Albers family had gone out for dinner. After they returned home, police arrived at the house for a “wellness check.” The visit resulted from a phone call by a neighbor, who said they were concerned about 17-year-old John’s mental health, and suggested he might be suicidal. His mother, Sheila Albers, confirmed that the complaint was made after her son supposedly threatened to stab himself with a knife.
Dashcam footage of the events show Officer Clayton Jenison and another officer arriving at the Albers family home. For a few minutes the two officers talked with each other, without knocking on the door or identifying themselves. Later, the family’s garage door opened, and Jenison reacted by unholstering his gun. He moved toward the garage door as a minivan slowly backed out. John Albers was driving.
As the minivan slowly reversed onto the driveway, Jenison reportedly yelled “Stop, stop, stop!” Then, Jenison fired twice at the teenager. Those shots, according to the family’s complaint, struck the boy, “incapacitating him and rendering him unable to control the minivan.”
Then, the car stopped, before speeding up in reverse, making a U-turn in the driveway and backing up again. Jenison immediately fired 11 more bullets at the car, as the minivan moved forward, rolling in neutral into the driveway of a house across the street. A report later showed that Albers had no drugs or alcohol in his system.
A month after the shooting, District Attorney Steve Howe announced that he would not press charges against the officer, who he said was justified in his actions. And while Jenison resigned from his position with the Overland Park police, Howe described his response as “fluid and instantaneous decisions that a law enforcement officer must make, which makes the job so difficult.”
The Albers family later won a civil suit against the city that paid a $2.3 million settlement. But it looks like the FBI is once again examining the case, this time from a civil rights angle. And while it’s not yet clear what that angle is, Sheila Albers says she hopes for a more transparent process than the one immediately following her son’s death. She maintains that law enforcement had denied her family justice after they “disseminated a false narrative, cleared the officer of wrongdoing in record time, and structured a severance payout to the officer that killed John.” That severance payout, which Jenison collected upon his resignation, was worth $70,000.