Kansas City, MO — On the night of March 12, 2020, Donnie Sanders, 47, was merely driving down the road, minding his own business when an officer with the Kansas City police department began following him. Moments later, Sanders would be shot and killed. He was unarmed and had harmed no one.
Last March, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office announced that no charges would be filed in the death of Sanders because prosecutors claim Sanders pointed his fingers or hand in the shape of a gun which justified the unidentified officer dumping four rounds into the unarmed man.
After seeking and not receiving any justice in the last two years, Sanders' family is now suing the Board of Police Commissioners and the police officer who shot him.
The federal lawsuit alleges Blayne Newton, the officer who killed Sanders, used excessive force when he shot Sanders three times. According to the Kansas City Star, the lawsuit also blames the Board of Police Commissioners, saying the governing body which oversees the police department, fails to properly train and discipline police officers in the use of deadly force.
Those actions ultimately led to Sanders’ “unwarranted and excruciating physical and mental anguish and death,” lawyers for his family wrote in the civil complaint.
According to police, on that fateful night, the officer claimed Sanders might be speeding so he made a U-turn and started following Sanders in his SUV. The dashcam shows that Sanders was not speeding and that the officer did not activate his lights or sirens as he followed him.
Sanders continued driving with Newton behind him and briefly attempted to turn left with his blinker on before turning right without signaling. Sanders then turned down an alley as the officer followed behind him.
Once in the alley, the Newton activated his lights and sirens to pull Sanders over. Sanders pulled over and stopped immediately. However, he opened the door and for unknown reasons, Sanders fled on foot. We will never know why he fled because he was killed, but if he fled because he was afraid of police, Newton's subsequent actions would entirely justify those fears.
Newton can be heard on the radio saying, that Sanders "is bailing on foot."
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As the dashcam footage shows, the officer pursues Sanders out of view as he yells at the unarmed man to "show me your hands." Sanders says something back to the officer but it is inaudible expect for a portion that sounds like, "help me."
The officer then yells several times, saying, "dude, drop it! Drop! Drop! Drop!" We can then hear the officer dump three rounds into the unarmed Sanders. He died on the scene.
After the officer killed Sanders, he told investigators that he thought the man had a gun. He had only a cellphone and it was in his pocket.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a news release last year that because the officer "thought" Sanders was pointing a gun at him, that he was justified in killing him.
Peters Baker's office says they did not have enough evidence to charge the officer. Naturally, activists in the area like Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, disagree.
“This is a tragedy. A Black man driving down the street, seemingly minding his own business, ends up dead after an encounter with a police officer,” Grant said. “Watching the video, it is not clear why Donnie was stopped in the first place. A traffic violation does not justify capital punishment. Donnie Sanders was unarmed. He should not be dead.”
“The system that exists is not capable of bringing justice to Black people,” said Ryan Sorrell, a leader of Black Rainbow, according to ABC News. “I think it's a corrupt and racist institution from its inception and at its root. It's just blatant naked violence without any accountability.”
Indeed it is. Despite horrifying police killings, many of which were captured on video and rocked the nation, the arrest rate for cops who kill people on-duty remains as low as ever.