Mothers form friendship, seek reform after officers killed sons

3 weeks ago 19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In galore ways, their stories are different.

But, successful the ways that substance most, Narene Stokes and Sheila Albers said it's the similarities that person brought them together, starting and ending with a mother's love.

Sheila and John Albers

From the infinitesimal Sheila Albers and her hubby adopted John from an orphanage successful Belarus, they were smitten with their blond-haired, blue-eyed boy.

"He ever benignant of walked with a swagger, similar helium was precise confident," Sheila recalled.

As helium grew, helium carried that assurance onto the shot field, 1 of his passions. But, down the bravado of this talented athlete, determination was pain, too.

"We adopted John erstwhile helium was 18 months old, and helium struggled with that and not knowing who his biologic ma was," Sheila explained.

Then, connected Jan. 20, 2018, immoderate of those struggles came to a head.

The 17-year-old was location alone, and posted a video to societal media threatening to harm himself, prompting friends to telephone constabulary to cheque connected him.

When constabulary arrived, John was backing his family's minivan retired of the driveway.

KSHB 41 obtained doorbell video and dashcam footage that was included successful the OSIT report done an unfastened records request.

In it, the spectator sees the store doorway open, past John starts pulling retired of the driveway. At that point, constabulary had not made interaction with the 17-year-old. As John started reversing consecutive down the driveway, then-Overland Park Police Officer Clayton Jenison changeable into the vehicle. After 1 round, the van appears to rotation retired of power and Jenison fires again, for a full of 13 shots fired.

Jenison said helium was acrophobic the van was going to deed him. One period later, the Johnson County District Attorney said a reappraisal determined Jenison was justified, due to the fact that helium was successful the way of the accelerating van.

“He felt similar helium was the 1 who was going to get tally implicit — that the conveyance was going to onslaught him," explained District Attorney Steve Howe during a 2018 property conference.

The household disputed those findings.

"So that was the opening of the mendacious narrative, when, successful fact, John pulled the car retired of the store going 2.5 miles per hr successful a consecutive line," Sheila said.

Narene and Ryan Stokes

Narene Stokes describes her lad Ryan arsenic "all boy," a young antheral who loved his household and friends and had a passionateness for playing sports.

"He tried them all, but hoops was his love," she remembered.

As helium grew older, Ryan joined PAL, the Police Athletic League, playing hoops with section constabulary officers.

"He already had a transportation with the police, a friendship," his ma explained.

Because of that, Narene said she was adjacent much shocked to larn it was a constabulary serviceman who ended her son's life.

On July 28, 2013, the 24-year-old and his friends were connected the outskirts of the Power and Light District.

A scuffle broke retired erstwhile 2 men near a barroom and accused Ryan's radical of friends of stealing a cellphone. Ryan's person maintained the 2 men who accused them were drunk, and protested they didn't person their phone. Still, it was capable to pull constabulary attention.

Some of that confrontation was caught connected a cellphone camera and was aboriginal shown arsenic grounds successful court.

"When they amusement Ryan, helium was trying to marque peace, and past helium was moving to effort to get distant from the area, from the occupation that was going connected there," Narene explained.

Ryan's friends aboriginal told her constabulary utilized capsicum spray, leaving the group's operator incapable to see. That's erstwhile Narene said Ryan ran to his friend's car successful a adjacent parking lot.

As helium ran, witnesses said helium appeared to beryllium holding up his pants. But Officer William Thompson said helium saw Ryan holding a gun.

That's erstwhile Thompson testified helium fired, reasoning Ryan was advancing toward chap constabulary officer, Daniel Straub.

But, Straub arsenic good arsenic 3 others who were adjacent each testified they didn't spot a gun.

Straub, who was facing Ryan astatine the time, said successful tribunal the 24-year-old appeared to beryllium surrendering erstwhile helium was shot.

The Stokes’ household attorney, Brian McCallister, explained the differing grounds from constabulary officers.

"William Thompson said helium yelled 5 to 7 times successful his loudest bid voice, 'Show maine your hands, driblet the gun.' Daniel Straub says 'I ne'er heard a word,'” McCallister said. “Officer Jones, William Thompson's spouse didn't perceive those commands. Two different officers disconnected to the broadside didn't perceive those commands."

"Ryan didn't person a accidental to clasp his hands up to the officer. He was changeable successful the back," McCallister said.

A weapon was recovered successful the vehicle, but it was registered to the driver, Ryan's friend, who testified helium near it successful the car that night.

Still, the family's lawyer counters the specified beingness of a firearm astatine the country altered the relationship constabulary archetypal released to the media.

"Within 30 minutes of Ryan's decease — 30 minutes, earlier immoderate probe was done — they had Ryan Stokes successful a standoff with a gun, a information to constabulary officers, and nary of that was true," McCallister said.

KSHB 41 News asked Kansas City, Missouri, constabulary astir that archetypal media release. Although the merchandise predates immoderate of the existent spokespeople with KCPD, they did stock this statement:

"The effect of the events is terribly tragic for the household members and each involved. We are atrocious for the symptom that Mr. Stokes' household experienced. This lawsuit is presently inactive successful civilian litigation process, and mostly we bash not remark connected details of cases nether civilian litigation to guarantee fairness for each sides involved."

As for the result of the officer-involved shooting 8 years ago, wrong days of Ryan's death, a expansive assemblage deemed the shooting justified due to the fact that the serviceman thought helium had a weapon and thought different serviceman was successful danger.

Differing outcomes

The Albers were awarded a colony successful a civilian suit.

Once that process was over, Sheila started digging into John's case, filing countless unfastened records requests.

Eventually she learned Jenison was paid a $70,000 severance payment by the city.

Then astir 1 twelvemonth ago, the FBI opened a civilian rights probe into the case.

"I consciousness similar determination is yet an independent, impartial probe being done of John's death," Sheila said.

Since the 2013 shooting, the Stokes household has filed 2 appeals, arguing determination was grounds that wasn't heard. But it's been 8 years, and the household has yet to spot the airy of a courtroom.

Narene told the KSHB 41 I-Team she feels arsenic if the strategy hopes she'll get bushed and volition discontinue fighting.

"But I can't... I won't, due to the fact that helium was my lone son, my babe boy," she said.

Unlike the Albers' case, the Stokes household has been incapable to get an extracurricular bureau specified arsenic the FBI oregon the U.S. Attorney General's Office to look into their case, contempt nonstop pleas from section civilian rights leaders implicit the years.

RELATED | Family of antheral killed by serviceman successful 2013 wants KCPD to reappraisal policy

Narene said she believes 1 crushed for this is that Ryan's communicative didn't get astir arsenic overmuch media attraction John's lawsuit did — and she's right.

In the involvement of afloat transparency, KSHB 41 News checked our ain archives.

Since Ryan Stokes' death, his lawsuit was mentioned 58 times, an mean of 7.25 times a year, connected KSHB-TV.

Since John Albers died, his lawsuit was mentioned 146 times, an mean of 36.5 times a year.

McCallister besides pointed to different glaring difference: a deficiency of video successful Ryan's death.

"When you are up against qualified immunity and you person to beryllium what a dormant antheral heard and didn't hear, what a dormant antheral saw and didn't see, you person nary witnesses,” McCallister said. “When you person a video camera, you person an eyewitness."

Worldwide attention

Recently, The Guardian, a planetary quality organization, profiled some the Albers and the Stokes cases.

The author, Susan Berardi, said contempt the differences, the similarities should service arsenic a wakeup telephone to immoderate parent.

"This is simply a ma story. I’m a mom. There are tons of moms retired determination and either with John oregon with Ryan, depending connected wherever you are and who you, are it could perfectly hap to you," Berardi said.

A formed relationship and propulsion for constabulary reform

Narene and Sheila anticipation to harvester their voices successful their propulsion for constabulary reform. They are calling for much situation effect grooming for officers and much civilian oversight successful reviews of police-involved shootings.

It's a concern that was formed astatine a enactment radical gathering for moms astir a twelvemonth ago.

"Man, we met and it was conscionable similar a click," Sheila recalled.

Both mothers said they recognize each other's symptom successful ways astir others can't.

"What bash you deliberation brought you 2 together?" KSHB 41 I-Team's Caitlin Knute asked some moms.

"Well, a small portion of God. I deliberation we were expected to meet, and I deliberation Ryan and John wanted america to meet," Sheila said, arsenic she and Narene stood manus successful hand, smiling astatine 1 another.

Today, they're not lone adjacent friends, they're allies successful their combat for justness for their sons.

Although their idiosyncratic stories are rooted successful sorrow, their combined communicative is 1 of strength, enactment and sisterhood.

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