On Monday, Nov. 13, 2013, a man called 911 and said he was the victim of a carjacking. The caller said a black woman he didn’t know asked him for a ride, and when he let her in, a black man jumped in with her, pointed a gun at him, stole his 2003 Toyota RAV4 and put him out.
According to the Kansas City Star and Pitch, police responded to the call and tracked the SUV using the man’s cellphone locator, which he had left inside the car. When they spotted the vehicle, they inspected it and determined that no one was inside even though it was difficult to see inside because the RAV4 had tinted windows. Satisfied that the vehicle was unoccupied, they went back to their police cruiser to decide the next step. Another police officer arrived, and as the officers pointed toward the car, it began moving.
The three officers ran toward the car and screamed for the driver to get out. They banged on the door. The car kept moving, although they were not in danger of being hit. They said they heard gunshots being fired at them.
So they opened fire.
Officer Dakota Merrill emptied his 16-round clip. Officer Shane Mellot, standing beside the passenger door, squeezed off 12 shots. The other cop did not fire. When they opened the door, they found 37-year-old Philippe Lora slumped over the steering wheel. He was shot 20 times. A bullet was lodged in his spine. There was no woman in the car despite what had been reported by the suburban white male who made the original call.
Police investigators arrived on the scene. They taped off the area. Detectives searched the vehicle. Dakota Merrill’s brother, who was off-duty and had nothing to do with the case, canvassed the scene. They let Merrill and Mellot get their story together. They brought in a dog to find the weapon that the officers said they heard fire a shot.
They never found a gun.
Then the case just disappeared.
The officers were never disciplined. A police investigation cleared them of any wrongdoing, saying they “feared for their lives.” A grand jury declined to indict the cops. Even stranger, Lora, the man who was shot 20 times, was never charged with a crime. He has never served a single day for supposedly shooting at police officers. He has never been charged with the carjacking.
Instead, police gave the now-paralyzed Philippe Lora $4.8 million. They sealed the details of his case. They forbade him from ever talking about it again. For years, no one knew anything about it, not even Lora’s family.
The Kansas City Police Department has done this before. It’s what they are known for. When comparing the size of its force, the crime rate and how many people it kills, very few cities in the U.S. rank as high as Kansas City. None get away with it as often.
In 1998 they killed 13-year-old Timothy Wilson after a car chase in which officers claimed the boy was driving toward them. He wasn’t. The pickup truck was stuck in the mud. The police were never charged with wrongdoing, but a jury gave the child’s mother $400,000.
On Oct. 8, 2016, cops killed Brandon Finch after saying that his car was lurching toward them. It wasn’t. Dashcam footage showed the car moving slowly in reverse. They didn’t interview the cops until three days after Finch was killed. A civil case is pending, but the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing—even the one who fired nine times into a slowly moving car.
That officer’s name is Dakota Merrill.
Kansas City cops are dangerous. They have killed 47 citizens in 11 years and nonfatally wounded another 56. According to a recent in-depth analysis of police data, the Kansas City Star found that the city ranks high on the list of police-shooting fatalities:
When The Star recently compared Kansas City to 11 other cities, including larger ones like Denver and Milwaukee, it found that Kansas City had the third-most officer-involved fatal shootings per capita from 2005 through 2014. Only St. Louis and Cleveland recorded more.
In a city that is 30 percent black, 60 percent of the people killed by Kansas City police in the last 11 years were black. They were disproportionately killed by white officers.
The FBI and other law-enforcement agencies don’t track how many people police officers shoot or kill each year, but when Portland, Ore., studied the issue in 15 major cities in 2012, they looked at the raw numbers. They didn’t factor in shootings per capita. They didn’t adjust for crime. They simply looked at how many people in each city police shot (fatally and nonfatally) over five years.
Only the police in Washington, D.C., and Milwaukee shot more of their citizens than Kansas City police officers. But Kansas City still has those cities beat in one area: No single police department in America shoots and kills people as much as Kansas City and gets away with it as often.
I know you’re waiting to hear how many cops were indicted for murder or manslaughter. But first, you should know that we at The Root did these numbers ourselves. We took the data you have just read and figured out that Kansas City ranks No. 1 based on a complex mathematical equation. We figured this out because here is how many cops have been charged or indicted by a Kansas City prosecutor or grand jury for killing someone in the last 11 years:
You read that right. See, the math was not so hard to do. The Star has collected data on every one of the city’s police shootings since 2005, and even in cases like Wilson’s and Lora’s, officers walk away scot-free. Notice that last statement was not qualified with “usually.” They always get away with it. Every single time.
The Star found that since 2005, prosecutors or grand juries haven’t charged a single Kansas City police officer with a crime. In fact, in the 45 years of the city’s Office of Community Complaints, which handles complaints against law-enforcement personnel, the office has never investigated an officer-involved shooting.
Because prosecutors work hand in hand with law enforcement every day, most people would question the ethics of allowing people who are essentially the prosecutors’ co-workers to investigate the crimes of the officers. Nowhere is this conflict of interest more evident than in Kansas City. It strains credulity to believe that a group who has shot 103 people since 2005 is blameless in every single incident. It not only seems unlikely—nationwide numbers show it is a statistical impossibility.
Sure, trials are rare. Convictions almost never happen. But Kansas City would have us believe that they have a spotless record when it comes to police shootings. Apparently, there is no other professional entity in the entire world that is as mistake-free as the Kansas City Police Department. They are perfect. They shoot more civilians. They kill more civilians. Yet somehow, they never make an error. They soar high above every other worker in every other industry in the universe.
I’ll believe that when pigs fly.