District attorney clears officer who killed man wielding gun at Lenexa Costco

Costco file photo by Mike Mozart.
Costco file photo by Mike Mozart.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe on Wednesday announced that his office had completed its review of the officer-involved shooting at the Lenexa Costco Nov. 26 and determined that the off-duty member of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department who shot and killed Ronald Hunt had “acted in accordance with Kansas law as it pertains to self-defense or defense of another,” and that his actions had “saved an unknown amount of innocent lives.”

The officer, Capt. Michael Howell, was a customer inside the store the morning that Hunt entered and began brandishing a handgun, threatening to kill people in the store.

As customers began to rush for the exits, Howell engaged Hunt, identifying himself as a police officer and telling him to drop his weapon. When Hunt failed to comply, Howell shot and fatally wounded him.

The announcement from Howe is copied below:

On Sunday, November 26, 2017, Ronald Hunt went to the Lenexa, Kansas Costco. He was armed with a loaded black powder pistol. As he approached and entered Costco, he began threatening to shoot and kill customers. He was brandishing the pistol as he walked through the aisles. Costco employees acted quickly to evacuate the numerous customers in the warehouse.

One of the customers was an off-duty Kansas City, Kansas police officer. The officer was not at Costco on any official business. He had his police credentials and his off-duty handgun on his person. When the evacuation began, he approached a Costco manager, identified himself as a police officer, learned what was happening, and made sure that someone had called 911.

The off-duty officer saw Hunt making his way toward the back of the store. He could hear Hunt threatening to kill people. He could see the gun. The officer was concerned for the safety of the evacuating customers, and decided to confront Hunt. The officer identified himself as a police officer, and ordered Hunt to stop and drop his weapon. Hunt failed to comply, and acted aggressively toward the officer. The officer shot Hunt, who died from his wounds.

The officer was not injured.

No one at Costco was injured by Hunt.

This office has reviewed the reports of the investigation conducted by the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team. It is our conclusion that the off-duty officer acted in accordance with Kansas law as it pertains to self-defense or defense of another.

Therefore, no charges will be filed against the officer in connection with this incident. It is our belief that this officer acted with extreme courage, and saved an unknown amount of innocent lives by his actions inside the Costco warehouse on November 26.