Unarmed Teen Killed by Police Was ‘Simply Backing His Mom’s Minivan’ Out of Garage, Lawsuit Claims
The 17-year-old was home alone when officers were called to the red-brick house to check on him after he’d allegedly threatened to harm himself on FaceTime.
When 17-year-old John Albers threatened suicide on FaceTime, his friends called police.
Within minutes of officers’ arrival at the teen’s home, he was dead—but not because he killed himself.
Officer Clayton Jenison allegedly “acted recklessly and deliberately” when he shot 13 times at Albers, who may not have even known police were at his home, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by his parents. The boy was “simply backing his mom’s minivan out of the family garage,” the complaint alleges.
Albers, a junior varsity soccer player and wrestler, was home alone on Jan. 20, 2018, in Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City, when police were called to the two-story house to check on him.
When they arrived at the home, two officers never “announced their presence at the residence” or even knocked on the door, the complaint alleges. Several minutes later, the family’s two-car garage door began to rise, according to the lawsuit.
Officer Jenison began moving toward the vehicle and unholstered his weapon, as Albers backed out of the garage at about 2.5 mph in a straight line, the lawsuit alleges, noting that the officer’s actions were contrary to department policies and general law-enforcement standards.
Jenison allegedly yelled “Stop! Stop! Stop!” and waited only “one second” before he fired his pistol twice at Albers.
Video evidence from a neighbor’s front door camera shows the minivan’s rear brake lights activated as soon as the first shot was fired, according to the lawsuit. But Albers was allegedly hit, “rendering him incapacitated and completely unable to keep control of the minivan.”
Jenison—who was allegedly never in the path of the vehicle—fired 11 more shots at the minivan. Albers, a platinum-blond teen with bright blue eyes, was hit a total of six times—in the head, neck, chest, torso, and face.
Albers’ parents claim Jenison was never in danger—and had no reason to unholster his firearm in the first place. There is no indication that Albers even knew the officer was “present in his driveway or was a law-enforcement officer until after he had been shot and seriously wounded,” the lawsuit claims.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, claims use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and 14th Amendments and demands a jury trial to determine unspecified damages. It names Jenison and the Overland Police Department as defendants.
Albers’ life was cut tragically short despite the fact that “no officers or civilians were ever in any danger,” according to the lawsuit. The family also cites department policy, which prohibits shooting into a moving vehicle “except in self-defense or defense of another and when the suspect is using deadly force.”
Albers had a history of “potential mental-health issues,” according to the lawsuit, but “had never threatened suicide.” He was not intoxicated or on any drugs, with the exception of Adderall, which had been prescribed by a doctor, the complaint claims.
Albers “was not suspected for any crime and had committed no crime,” the lawsuit alleges. It adds that “an objectively reasonable officer” would not have pulled out his weapon and approached the family’s minivan.
“A vehicle passing a police officer does not give that officer an ongoing license to kill an unthreatening citizen,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also notes that Jenison never received crisis-intervention training, which “teaches officers how to de-escalate and diffuse mental-health situations when answering calls for service.”
Jenison resigned from the police department “for personal reasons” following the shooting, according to The Kansas City Star.
In February, Johnson County Prosecutor Steve Howe announced that a multi-jurisdictional investigation found Jenison reasonably feared his life was in danger and was justified in his actions. Police released dash-cam video from the shooting consistent with the screenshots in the lawsuit.
“None of us can be in the mind of the officer at that time,” Howe said. “He felt he was in danger and took reasonable action.”
A spokesman for the city of Overland Park declined comment to local news outlets, citing the pending litigation.