What happened when a Kansas police officer shot a man Saturday night? We have no idea




  • In US
  • 2022-05-24 10:00:00Z
  • By Kansas City Star
 

On Saturday, a Junction City, Kansas, police officer shot 36-year-old Carlton Solton Jr. after a foot chase. During the brief pursuit, Solton was observed with a gun, police officials said. He was struck multiple times.

As of Monday, Solton remained in the intensive care unit at Stormont Vail Hospital in Topeka, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation officials said.

Almost two days have passed, and we still don't know the identity of the Junction City police officer who fired a service weapon. We also don't know why there is no body camera video footage of the incident, as confirmed by the KBI Monday.

Police did not say if the officer was wearing a camera. But a Junction City police spokesperson did say the department uses them. "Our officers have body-worn cameras. All of our officers wear them. All of our marked patrol vehicles are equipped with cameras that record the surrounding area."

We know that Junction City officers must activate body cameras when performing their official duties, former interim Police Chief Dan Breci wrote in a newspaper guest commentary in 2016.

The unknown officer deserves the benefit of the doubt. But shouldn't the public know pertinent information about the officers involved? How much time have they spent on the force and what are their ranks?

And why didn't the officer who shot activate or wear a body camera?

Even if this turns out to be a justified shooting, time is of the essence to release details explaining why the gun was discharged. That should be routine whenever force is used.

The Junction City Police Department has turned the case over to the KBI, which is handling the investigation.

"Any information surrounding this incident or individuals involved in the incident must be provided by the Kansas Bureau of Investigations," Junction City police officials wrote in an email. "This matter is still an active and ongoing investigation that the KBI is processing and has jurisdiction over."

The need for transparency should guide the KBI's investigation, especially as deadly interactions with law enforcement continue to rise.

Police shooting deaths on the rise in US

Fatal police shootings in the U.S. reached a record high of 1,055 in 2021, according to a database maintained by The Washington Post, which has been tracking such shootings since 2015.

Law enforcement agencies across the country have adopted the U.S. Department of Justice's practices best suited for 21st century policing. These guidelines call for an investigating agency to be guided by "transparency during the investigation" and to "demonstrate its commitment to conduct and report, in a timely manner, the outcome of a complete and professionally conducted inquiry."

Police have the ability to provide public information in a timely manner without jeopardizing a criminal investigation. We urge the Junction City Police Department to be forthcoming.

For now, the KBI does not plan on releasing any video from the chase or shooting. Portions of the Solton chase were recorded by other means, officials said.

"Any video from the incident is considered evidence in a criminal case. Public disclosure could impact witnesses' statements and influence a potential jury pool, so we will protect it due to the ongoing investigation," the KBI said in its statement Monday.

Solton is no stranger to law enforcement agencies in Geary and nearby Saline counties. He has a long history with Junction City police. Last year, he fled from officers trying to arrest him on a warrant issued by the Kansas Department of Corrections.

The case will play out in the legal system. If warranted, prosecutors in Geary County will pursue the proper criminal charges. But the public has the right to know if the officer who shot Solton had previous interactions with him, among other reasonable questions.

Suspect with a gun threatened two women

Early Saturday evening, a woman called 911 to report a man was outside her home, waving a handgun, and making threats to her and another woman, according to a KBI news release.

Junction City officers who responded saw Solton, who apparently fit the description of the person threatening harm against the women. Solton was running away from the scene, law enforcement officials said. A brief foot pursuit began.

During the chase, officers heard gunshots coming from Solton's direction and saw him point a gun at them, according to the KBI. The unnamed officer caught up to Solton between two homes and a confrontation occurred.

What sort of confrontation? Law enforcement officials wouldn't tell us.

The officer fired. Solton was struck multiple times, officials said. No officers were injured in the incident, the KBI wrote in its news release.

Police rendered aid until paramedics showed up. Solton later underwent surgery at the hospital, KBI officials said.

That is the police version of events, which we aren't disputing at this point. But we also know the initial narratives surrounding officer-involved shootings are not always accurate.

Remember former Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith's "bad guy's dead" comment immediately after ex-KCPD detective Eric DeValkenaere fatally shot Cameron Lamb in 2019? DeValkenaere was convicted of manslaughter. He appealed a six-year sentence, and, incredibly, the former lawman remains free on bond.

Yes, the Junction City Police Department is in an untenable position. The integrity of the investigation must be protected. And the officers involved have a right to due process.

But the department and the KBI also have a duty to the public and family members to release key details quickly, and that includes more information about the police officer who shot and wounded Solton. Transparency produces trust.

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