Johnson County, KS — No charges will be filed against an unnamed Overland Park Police Officer who shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy on January 20, 2018. Police were called to the home of teenager John Albers after his girlfriend said she was afraid he was going to kill himself. Police arrived and one officer opened fire on Albers as the teen backed out of his driveway.
The shooting was caught on police dash cam and one angle seems to show the teen start to back the family’s minivan out of the driveway before being confronted by the police officer. That officer fired an initial two shots. After the first two shots were fired, Albers may have been wounded and it caused him to push the gas.
The vehicle then spun out in donut-like fashion, nearly hitting the officer. Fully engaged in the conflict the officer then opened fire with 11 more bullets further wounding and eventually killing the reportedly distraught teen.
Once again, another American family is faced with the sad reality an officer of the peace ended their son’s life in the family’s own front yard. That officer has since resigned from the police force for “personal reasons.” Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe told reporters in a news conference with Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez that no charges would be filed against the officer because he was "following police procedure."
Predictably, Sheriff Donchez took the side of his former officer when he said:
He was out of the way at one point, but as you saw the van turned around and came back at him...One of the misconceptions is that if you are alongside a vehicle you are no longer subject to danger. That’s not remotely true. 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...A vehicle can be a weapon...That factored into our equation.
Following the shooting, the Johnson County Officer Involved Shooting Investigation Team (OISIT) conducted the post-shooting investigation. As TFTP has reported, in other states when there’s an officer-involved shooting, the police department from which the officer was employed cannot take the lead. Predictably, OISIT, after investigating its own county’s police department, found no wrongdoing on the part of the still unnamed officer.
Albers’ family issued the following statement on social media after their son was gunned down outside their home:
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We are heartbroken at the loss of our beloved son, John. We truly appreciate the outpouring of support from friends, family and community. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and for respecting our privacy during this very difficult time. John was loved by many.
John Albers was a Junior at Blue Valley Northwest High School. He was a member of the Wrestling and Soccer teams and was involved with at-risk youth in a Kansas City based soccer league. The officer who killed him reportedly knew Albers but it is unclear how he was known by police. Friends of Albers say he was unfairly portrayed in a negative light but was, in fact, “loyal”, “courageous”, and “compassionate.”
Dozens of his friends gathered outside his home, wrote memories of Albers on balloons and released them following a vigil. The young man’s death is one of nearly 1,200 deaths by officers recorded yearly. He was unarmed. He was suicidal. And he was killed by a cop who was supposedly in fear of his life.
Fox 4 Kansas City, in its coverage of the shooting, encouraged its readers to call 911 if citizens are suicidal. Many residents will likely rethink that suggestion following this report which accurately details how a suicidal person can become a victim of homicide by dialing 911, killed by the very people who are sent to help. Something has to change.
DA Howe said police get 2,400 calls for help by suicidal people and their families. He admitted police need more training in dealing with the mentally ill. “Please give us more resources to deal with mental health crisis in the country...Unfortunately, the vast majority of our officer-involved shootings involve people with mental illness,” Howe said.
John Albers was born Valery Alexandrovich Zhemchugov in Belarus. He was adopted by Sheila Albers (Principal of Harmony Middle School) and Steve Albers when he was just an infant. Reflecting on John’s adoption, Sheila said, “John brought us much more joy than we brought him in this sense that he fulfilled our dreams of becoming parents...There’s nothing more beautiful than that.”
The following is dashcam footage from the actual shooting. One can clearly see the officer open fire on Albers before he started driving erratically. Those two shots were likely unnecessary and would have made any motorist attempt to flee or cause them to lose control. Unfortunately, the officer will never be held accountable for his reckless actions, charged with murder, or spend any time behind bars. But if the average citizen had done what he did, they likely would be held without bond until trial. That’s what is wrong and needs to be fixed.