The friends of a 17-year-old boy called police to help him after he had threatened suicide on FaceTime, but instead, an officer fatally shot him.
John Albers was “simply backing his mom’s minivan out of the family garage” when Officer Clayton Jenison “acted recklessly and deliberately” by firing 13 shots at the teen, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the boy’s parents on Tuesday, The Daily Beast reports.
Albers — a junior varsity soccer player and wrestler — likely didn’t even know police were at his house when he was killed. He was home alone on Jan. 20 in Overland Park, a suburban neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri, when his friends called police to go to his house and check on him.
The suit claims that when the two officers arrived on the scene, they never “announced their presence at the residence” or knocked on the front door. Minutes after they showed up, the garage door started to lift up, prompting Jenison to move toward the vehicle and draw his weapon while Albers began backing out at approximately 2.5 miles per hour.
Jenison purportedly shouted “stop” three times consecutively but waited only “one second” before opening fire. The parents’ lawsuit argues that the officer’s actions went against department policies and general law enforcement standards.
Video footage from a neighbor’s front door surveillance camera reportedly showed the van’s rear brake lights activated the moment the first shot was fired, however, Albers was allegedly hit which rendered him “incapacitated and completely unable to keep control of the minivan.”
Making matters worse, Jenison was allegedly never even in the path of the vehicle and was in no imminent danger, yet he still fired 11 more shots at it. Albers was hit six times in the head, neck, chest, torso, and face.
Albers’ parents maintain that at no point was Jenison in danger and, therefore, had no reason to draw his weapon to begin with. Additionally, the lawsuit notes there are no signs that indicate Albers knew the officer was “present in his driveway or was a law enforcement officer until after he had been shot and seriously wounded.”
The lawsuit claims Jenison used excessive force in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments and calls for a jury trial seeking unspecified damages. Jenison and the Overland Police Department are named defendants in the suit.
It should be noted that the suit also addresses the fact that Jenison never received crisis-intervention training, which “teaches officers how to de-escalate and diffuse mental-health situations when answering calls for service.”
Although Albers had a history of mental health issues, the lawsuit claims he had never before threatened to commit suicide. He also wasn’t intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs besides Adderall, which was prescribed by a doctor.
Following the shooting, Jenison resigned from the police force, citing “personal reasons.”
If this tragic scenario sounds familiar, that's because it is.
These types of "shoot first, ask questions later" incidents with law enforcement have become America's new normal. The difference in this case, though, is that Albers was a platinum blonde, blue-eyed white kid instead of a person of color.
While the racial element doesn't make Jenison's actions any more or less reprehensible, it certainly adds context to the debate around police brutality, excessive force, and criminal justice reform.
This is, clearly, not an isolated problem that only affects minorities or people who live in inner-cities. This is a nationwide issue that needs to be taken seriously by any and every American who doesn't want to lose a loved one to a trigger-happy cop.
Banner/thumbnail Photo Credit: Pixabay, diegoparra