A recently released crime lab report on the fatal police shooting of a troubled Overland Park teenager in 2018 has prompted new questions about whether the officer may have been cleared of wrongdoing prematurely.
The report by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office’s crime lab was obtained by Sheila Albers, the mother of the shooting victim John Albers.
The report analyzes bullet damage to the silver Honda Odyssey minivan that then-Overland Park Police Officer Clayton Jenison shot into as John Albers drove it out of the family garage.
The report’s conclusions show that the bullets were fired from the right side of the minivan and not from directly behind it.
Moreover, the date of the report — March 7, 2018 — leaves open the question of whether it was ever seen by Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe before he decided no criminal charges would be pursued against Jenison.
Howe announced on Feb. 20, about two weeks before the report’s release, that based on the evidence available at the time, authorities believed Jenison was justified in using deadly force.
Part of their reasoning: he was in danger of being hit by the minivan Albers was driving and could reasonably fear for his life.
The newly obtained report, plus news that the Kansas oversight commission on police standards, or Kansas CPOST, will allow Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez to retain his license, has infuriated Albers.
“That is so disgusting to me,” she said, noting that Jenison was paid a $70,000 severance and allowed to keep his license.
“How could anyone, chief of police, district attorney, city manager, make those decisions without all the evidence? We either have incredible incompetence or we have people complicit in a cover-up,” she told the Shawnee Mission Post.
She also said she was bothered by the fact that the crime lab report listed the officer who fired the shots as the “victim” and her son as “suspect.”
These are the latest developments in more than three years of conflicting statements and reluctantly released public documents related to the Jan. 20, 2018 shooting.
Jenison fatally shot John Albers, 17, as part of a response to calls to the police by persons saying they were concerned about Albers’ state of mind.
A report by the county’s multi-jurisdictional officer involved shooting investigation team said those calls were prompted by social media posts from the teen, who was home alone at the time.
Officers were on hand when Albers first attempted to back slowly out of the garage and down the driveway.
Dash cam video of the incident shows the van being driven by John Albers began backing slowly down the driveway with Jenison positioned to its right. Jenison fired multiple shots at the vehicle, which then accelerated and spun halfway around to face the other direction.
In the video, Jension can be seen trying to move away from the van and maneuvering himself to be on the passenger’s side. He would fire 13 times in total before the incident ended, hitting Albers multiple time and killing him.
In all, the incident lasts about 15 seconds.
Previous questions about where shots were fired from
A month after the shooting, Howe announced that no charges would be filed.
At the press conference announcing Howe’s decision, Donchez also took reporters’ questions and addressed the issue of Jenison’s positioning to the van when he fired his weapon.
“One of the misconceptions is that if you are alongside a vehicle you are no longer subject to danger. That’s not remotely true,” Donchez said at the time. “One cut of the wheel to one side or other can take you down with the side of the vehicle. Don’t let the fact that he’s alongside the vehicle fool anyone into believing that he’s no longer in danger.”
Last year, it was revealed that Jenison received the severance payment, raising questions about city and department officials’ earlier accounts that he had left the Overland Park force voluntarily before any discussion of severance could take place.
Overland Park at first resisted releasing the full severance agreement, but the Kansas City Star and TV station KSHB sued the city over the records and the city lost the ensuing court battle.
The agreement specified that upon inquiry, the Overland Park Police Department would report to Kansas CPOST, a state police oversight board, that Jenison resigned voluntarily and under normal circumstance for personal reasons.
It was that assertion that prompted Sheila Albers to file a complaint with Kansas CPOST. Albers questioned whether Donchez should remain a licensed peace officer after having said Jenison’s departure was normal when it was not.
The results of the CPOST hearing were not posted on its website, but Albers said she was informed by phone that the commission did not consider him to be in violation of any statues or policies.
Officials from CPOST did not comment but noted the complaint is confidential. Its website does report when certification has been revoked, however.
City, DA office’s response
Overland Park officials supported CPOST’s decision on Donchez.
City spokesperson Sean Reilly wrote to the Shawnee Mission Post:
“The City of Overland Park was supportive of the (CPOST) officials taking time to review, investigate and talk with appropriate personnel in making its determination that Police Chief Frank Donchez was compliant with regard to applicable laws and policies, and remains in good standing as a KCPOST certified police officer.”
Reilly referred questions about the shooting investigation report to the DA’s office.
Howe’s office was contacted by email and voicemail Monday and Tuesday, but has not offered any comment on the lab report or the decision to clear Jenison. District Attorney spokesperson Kristi Bergeron said Howe has been busy with other matters, but promised more information in the near future.
Albers, meanwhile still has questions about how the investigations were done and whether there is still more information out there that hasn’t come to light.
There is also still an active FBI investigation into John Albers’ killing that she believes will be more impartial, she said.
She also expressed frustration that important information is only now coming to light after three years of records requests and lawsuits.
“I’m extraordinarily disappointed,” Albers said. “It just points to the national problem we have of police investigating themselves. It just doesn’t work. There’s an inherent conflict of interest.”
But although disappointed, she said she will keep pushing.
“I think the quest for justice is far from over,” she said.