Community demands answers after Kansas City police shoot ‘pregnant’ Black woman

An eyewitness says Leonna Hale was pregnant and unarmed when police shot her, but investigators say just the opposite

Nathan Place
New York
Tuesday 31 May 2022 20:42
<p>Kansas City, Missouri police are accused of shooting a pregnant Black woman as she tried to flee</p>

Kansas City, Missouri police are accused of shooting a pregnant Black woman as she tried to flee

Kansas City residents are demanding answers after police reportedly shot a female suspect who said she was pregnant.

The Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) says the woman, Leonna Hale, 26, was one of two suspects in a recent carjacking. When KCPD officers confronted her and a male suspect outside a Family Dollar store on 27 May, police say she attempted to flee.

What happened next is disputed, but authorities say it ended with Ms Hale being “seriously injured” and hospitalised.

“Two officers fired shots,” the Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a tweet. “A suspect handgun was recovered from the scene. Hale was seriously injured & her condition is stable. No other injuries.”

Meanwhile, an eyewitness has offered a more detailed account of what she says happened.

“They [the police] shot five times,” the witness, who only gave her first name, Shedanja, told the Kansas City Star. “I remember seeing her hit the ground and I froze.”

Shedanja is adamant that Ms Hale was not a threat.

“She did not pull out a weapon on them,” she said. “She did not even have a stick in her hand.”

The Missouri State Highway Patrol disputes this version of events. Sgt Andy Bell, a spokesperson for the agency, told The Independent that as investigators have reviewed body camera footage, it’s become clear that Ms Hale “had a handgun in her hand”.

Furthermore, Mr Bell said, there is “no indication that she was pregnant”.

“We’re treating that as a rumour,” the sergeant said.

On the night of the shooting, Interim KCPD chief Joseph Mabin spoke briefly to reporters, but referred all questions to the Highway Patrol, which is conducting the investigation.

“The Highway Patrol will be investigating this incident,” Mr Mabin said. “We’re committed to being 100% transparent, and fully cooperating with the Highway Patrol.”

Toriano Porter, a columnist for The Kansas City Star, said the briefing raised more questions than it answered.

“Is that how you’re going to play the lead role, Chief Mabin?” Mr Porter wrote. “Kansas Citians shouldn’t be left in the dark about basic details of the shooting. If the woman was pregnant, tell us. If so, what’s the condition of the woman’s unborn child? Did she have a weapon? Were body-worn cameras activated? Did dashboard camera footage capture portions of the encounter?”

As for the pledge to cooperate with investigators, Mr Porter was not impressed.

“Lip service about transparency means absolutely nothing without updating the public about what occurred at Family Dollar,” he wrote.

The Independent has reached out to the KCPD for comment.

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