Update: The Jackson County Prosecutors Office said that Leonna Hale had a firearm. Hale was charged on June 1st. The Prosecutor’s Office released a still image which contradicts The Kansas City Star’s eyewitness testimony.
KANSAS CITY, MO – In what community members are now describing as a “horrific, attempted execution,” two Kansas City police officers shot and critically wounded a Black woman on Friday night, May 27th, in the Independence Plaza neighborhood.
The victim and 26-year-old Black woman identified as Leonna Hale.
The Kansas City Police Department alleges the incident was in an attempt to arrest a woman and a man in connection with a suspected stolen vehicle, but eyewitnesses say this narrative does not add up given the woman had her hands up and was also shot an astounding five times.
Shédanja, an eyewitness who recorded the aftermath of the scene, told The Kansas City Star she heard officers start yelling, “Get out the car,” to two people who were in a car close to her. A man got out of the vehicle, she says, and jumped a fence and took off. Three of the cops took off after him, she said. The woman on the other hand, exited the car with her hands up.
According to the Kansas City Star’s eyewitness account, “The cops told the woman to get on the ground, but the woman informed them that she was pregnant, and so she couldn’t get down on the ground.” Then police asked her to get down multiple times, which she still couldn’t. The woman then informed police that there was a gun in the vehicle.
The woman began moving back toward a fence of the parking lot. Numerous officers approached and drew their weapons. “She did not pull out a weapon on them,” Shédanja said. “She did not even have a stick in her hand.” The woman ran three steps away from officers, Shédanja said, and police shot five times.
“One, two, three, four, five. I remember it because it didn’t stop. They shot five times,” Shédanja, an eyewitness who recorded the aftermath of the scene said. “I remember seeing her hit the ground and I froze,” she says. She also asked police numerous times why they shot the woman, but officers refused to answer.
Shédanja’s account, along with other eyewitnesses, directly contradict the “official police account” provided by Sgt. Bell. Many community members are already placing the event in contrast to the Buffalo Massacre, asking how police can safely apprehend a white man who committed mass murder, but brazenly shoot a Black woman 5 times who posed no threat and had her hands up.
A video of the horrific aftermath shows Leonna lying on the ground after being shot, and the police proceeding to handcuff her, dramatically increasing her likelihood of bleeding to death. Fortunately, Leonna is still alive and now in stable condition.
Interim Kansas City Police Chief Joseph Chief Mabin said: “We never want to be in these type of situations. Not the public, as a police department. Anytime it happens is a blight on our community. I want to ensure the public the scene is secure. There’s no on-going threat. We’re committed to be 100% transparent. This is a holiday weekend. It’s time for friends. Not a time for violence.”
Missouri State Highway Patrol has been tasked with investigating the unarmed shooting of Leonna Hale. It is procedure for such an outside agency to investigate police-involved shootings specifically involving the KCPD as an alleged attempt at providing impartiality.
Malcolm Johnson was an unarmed Black man murdered on March 25th, 2021 by KCPD. Similar to Leonna’s case, all local media outlets as well as the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that he had been armed and engaged in a shootout with the police. But what really happened?
As formerly reported by The Kansas City Defender, video later leaked “by two convenience store employees showed several cops restraining Johnson in a way that would have made it physically impossible for him to fight back. One cop draws her weapon, accidentally shoots another cop in the leg, and then fires several shots into Johnson’s back.”
“It is easy to see how police are the dominant authority in these murders. Another news story, released by KSHB Kansas City two days after Malcolm Johnson’s murder, works to legitimate the narrative by exclusively using police and FBI perspectives. In the story, Public Information Officer Sgt. Jacob Becchina says, ‘We train tirelessly from day one to give officers every tool both physically, mentally and tactically to work through those situations so that they have the best chance to make the best decisions that they can,’ suggesting again that this outcome was the best possible and truly could not have gone any other way.”
We will continue to provide contextual and historical information as we report on the tragic story of Leonna Hale, as well as the alleged ongoing “investigation” into why she was shot a horrific five times after having her hands up and being unarmed.
This is a developing story.