Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker's office said Thursday it will re-open a fatal officer-involved shooting case from two years ago after the sheriff's deputy in question was charged with assault this week in another shooting.
Prosecutors on Wednesday charged Deputy Lauren Michael, 29, with first-degree assault and armed criminal action in connection with an Aug. 8 incident in Kansas City's Westport neighborhood, in which she shot a 25-year-old woman in the back after trying to arrest her for failure to obey a lawful order.
Michael's bond was set at $30,000/10 percent, which she has posted, according to court records.
Sheriff Daryl Forte said Michael has been placed on unpaid leave pending the case's outcome, per department policy, and noted that Michael's charges are not presumption of guilt.
On Thursday, Baker's office announced it would take another took at a May 2017 case in which Michael, working off-duty in security at the Raytown Walmart, fatally shot a shoplifting suspect she recognized as a wanted felon. The man, Donnie Sneed, resisted arrest by Michael and another loss-prevention officer, even as he was tased, and according to court documents got Michael's stun gun and used it against her before she shot him multiple times. Investigators later learned Sneed had been trained in mixed martial arts.
Prosecutors did not file charges, and Michael ultimately received two valor awards from that incident. Sneed's family filed a wrongful death civil suit last year, scheduled for trial in June 2020.
Mike Mansur, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, said, “Because of the similarities, we believed it was worth another look.” He added there’s no guarantee prosecutors will find anything new or different when reviewing the case.
In the Aug. 8 incident, Michael and other sheriff's deputies had been on patrol duty late in the evening when one deputy stopped a Bird scooter, with a male driver and female passenger, that had been going the wrong way on Main Street. The deputy took the driver into custody and asked the woman to stop, but she yelled an expletive and ran away. The only charge against the woman was a misdemeanor, and the sergeant in charge told dispatch to return to normal radio traffic.
When Michael noticed the woman a short time later and tried to arrest her, and during the ensuing scuffle Michael also tased the woman. Michael claimed the woman wrestled the stun gun away and tased her before she fired shots while the woman was over her.
The woman said she tried to push the Taser away, then got up and ran away, at which point she got shot in the back.
The woman said she had no intention of taking the Taser away or hurting the deputy. Dash camera video showed shots presumably fired after the woman started to run away. Investigators found five cartridges from Michael's gun and noted the stun gun had been deployed twice but just three seconds apart, making it unlikely the woman had wrestled it away and used it on Michael.
Peters Baker said she did not find Michael’s actions to be reasonable or lawful.
"Laws that protect law enforcement’s actions are a high hurdle for prosecutors to overcome. We believe, however, this case will meet that high bar," she said in a release Wednesday. "Each case stands on its own fact pattern. The actions of the deputy were not lawful to effect this arrest of this civilian, and we do not find the officer’s actions to be reasonable to protect against a perceived physical threat against the officer.
"We are grateful the victim is recovering from her injuries." Baker added.