Topeka, KS — A 911 call over a disturbance in a local park would come to a violent end as police opened fire on a fleeing man earlier this year. The two officers would dump multiple rounds into the man’s back, killing him. After police investigated themselves, this week, the officers who fired their weapons, killing 30-year-old Dominique White have been justified in their use of force.
The incident began on the morning of Septemeber 28 at 9:20 a.m. when officers with the Topeka police department said someone called to report shots being fired during a disturbance in Ripley Park. Police said the caller noted that both of the people involved in the disturbance were still in the park.
Two unnamed officers responded to the call and within only minutes, White would be fatally shot.
In a press conference after the shooting, Topeka police Lt. Colleen Stuart explained that officers who arrived at the scene “encountered a suspicious person in the area.” While investigating the individual, Stuart said, officers saw that he had a handgun.
“In the process of trying to secure the firearm, the individual struggled with officers and attempted to flee,” Stuart said. “While fleeing from officers, the individual reached for the pocket containing the firearm, causing the officers to fire their weapons.”
The statement from the Topeka police department contradicted the report from the officers which said White had a firearm but it never once said White was fleeing when they shot him.
“We are not confirming or disputing anything the Topeka Police Department has released, but I would point out that what we released and what they released are not conflicting,” Lawrence police officer Drew Fennelly said in an email after the shooting.
In spite of this glaring discrepancy from the start, the Lawrence Police Department was allowed to investigate their neighbors in the Topeka department. On November 29, they sent the results of their “investigation” to the District Attorney’s office who took the department’s word and cleared the officers.
“It is my decision that the use of force in this matter was lawful under Kansas law and the United States Constitution. It is further my opinion that no reasonable judge or jury would find the actions of either officer involved in this matter to be unlawful,” the DA’s statement read.
A key claim made by the Lawrence Police Department in clearing the officers was that White ” hovered his left hand over the pocket containing the gun, making him a threat to use deadly force” as he ran away. However, when reviewing the body camera footage—released publicly this week—White doesn’t appear to be hovering his hand over the pocket at all when police open fire. He simply appears to be running away.
White’s shooting was so disturbing that immediately after witnessing it, dozens of people began gathering around the officers in protest.
In response, several dozen officers from the Topeka Police Department, the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kansas Highway Patrol were called in to quash the dissent.
Although the department never released the officers’ names, according to a report from the Topeka-Capital Journal, the video shows one of the officers is Michael Cruse, who was a figure in two other high-profile incidents: the fatal shooting of a retired judge’s dog in 2015 and the 2002 traffic death of a man he struck with his vehicle during a high-speed response to a burglar alarm.
To illustrate how easily frightened Cruse is, the dog he shot in 2015 was a tiny miniature Doberman-pinscher-boxer mix. It weighed only 26 pounds and was securing the family’s backyard.
In the 2002 incident, Cruse killed an innocent 61-year-old man, was sentenced to a year in jail for vehicular homicide—but was rehired by the department a year later. You cannot make this up.
When watching the video below ask yourself if this incident could’ve been handled without killing White. Indeed, the video and subsequent lack of charges in this case now set a disturbing precedent—cops can shoot and kill a fleeing man in the back, on video, lie about it in their report, and face no consequences.