Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight K. Scroggins, Jr. today announced there will be no charges filed in the officer involved shooting which resulted in the death of Jason R. Fanning which occurred on February 20, 20 17. The officer involved in the shooting was a St. Joseph Police Department Officer. The extensive investigation was conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. All persons with any information regarding the event, whose names were disclosed during the investigation or who were offered as having relevant information from outside sources were interviewed. The decedent's family, community members as well as others through various forms of social media, provided names they believed had information and they also were interviewed. Several hours of recorded interviews were conducted. Search warrants were obtained for the involved officer's electronic devices as well as for any relevant forms of social media communication including Facebook pages. The autopsy in the case was performed at Frontier Forensics Midwest, L.L.C., Kansas City, Kansas. The reasonable determinations from the investigation of the events that occurred and the officer's use of deadly force are outlined herein.
The SJPD Officer and an unarmed Sheriffs Department Reserve Officer passenger were on routine patrol at approximately 0237 hours on February 20, 2017, when their attention was drawn to the vehicle driven by Mr. Fanning. As officers followed the vehicle east on Edmond, a check of the license plates revealed an outstanding warrant for the registered owner, Mr. Fanning. Officers had not yet attempted a vehicle stop when the Fanning vehicle turned south on 20th Street. The officers also turned south on 20th Street. One block south at 20th and Charles Street, the subject vehicle made a belated turn into a private drive. The SJPD officer stated he believed the individual was going to attempt to exit the vehicle and either go into the house or attempt to flee. The Officer did not initiate his emergency lights at this time and therefore the dash camera in the vehicle was not activated. The Officer also pulled into the driveway, quickly got out of his vehicle and approached the Fanning vehicle. He identified himself as a law enforcement officer. The vehicle was stopped but rolled backward and may have made slight contact with the officer's vehicle parked behind him. The officer stated he did not know if any contact had been made. No damage to the police vehicle occurred if there was slight contact. Mr. Fanning did not exit the vehicle as instructed by the officer. He again pulled forward and appeared to put the vehicle in park. Mr. Fanning still did not exit the vehicle as the officer continued to instruct him to do. Mr. Fanning then appeared to place the vehicle in reverse and began to attempt to back around the patrol vehicle to leave. The reserve officer ride-a-long, whose presence was likely unknown to Mr. Fanning, had also exited the police vehicle and was standing toward the front of the police vehicle. This officer was standing in the area toward which Mr. Fanning was moving. There is no evidence to indicate Mr. Fanning was attempting to injure the officer or even that Mr. Fanning was aware of the second officer's presence. However, the SJPD Officer was aware of the second officer's presence, that she was outside the police vehicle and he stated he determined the moving vehicle was an immediate threat to the ride-a-long officer.
When the Fanning vehicle began to move backward, the SJPD Officer fired his service weapon a total of 8 times with one bullet fatally striking Mr. Fanning and three additional grazing gunshot wounds identified. The fatal gunshot wound entered the left shoulder/left neck, perforated the left neck muscles, arch of aorta and right upper lung. The cause of death was stated as "the decedent expires from gunshot wound of the chest with internal exsanguination."
After Mr. Fanning was struck with the bullet, the vehicle accelerated rapidly backward and struck a tree to the side of the police vehicle. The SJPD Officer at that time activated his emergency lights and captured a small portion of the latter part of the occurrence on his vehicle camera due to the system's ability to recover approximately 30 seconds of recording which occurred immediately prior to activation of the system. The in-car camera system captured Mr. Fanning's vehicle backing as the shots were fired, the vehicle striking the tree and the subsequent actions of other responding resources and officers in attempting to provide emergency assistance to Mr. Fanning. Mr. Fanning was pronounced deceased at Mosaic Life Care Center at 0305 hours on February 20, 2017.
A law enforcement officer is allowed to use deadly force if that officer has a reasonable belief that the use of such force is necessary to protect another from serious physical injury or death. Under the circumstances of the instant case, it cannot be determined the officer's belief regarding the potential threat of serious physical injury or death to the ride-a-long officer was unreasonable. Therefore, no criminal charges will be pursued. It will be left to the SJPD and BCSD to release names of the officers involved if they so choose.