Federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation related to a Kansas teen killed in 2018 by police during a wellness check. John Albers, who was 17 at the time, was home alone and about to reverse out of the garage in a minivan when an Overland Park police officer fired 13 times and killed him.
“Finally it is happening,” Albers’ mom Sheila Albers told the Shawnee Mission Post, adding that she was “completely stunned” to learn of the FBI’s renewed interest in the case. “Our hope is it will be done with transparency and accountability and that it sends a clear message nationally that chiefs of police and local DAs have to be transparent and have to do the right thing, even if it is difficult.”
While the FBI said they are unable to comment on the reason for the review, according to NBC News, their intention is to "collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner.”
Albers had been home alone in January 2018 when police were sent to perform a wellness check. Authorities had received a call from one of his friends saying he may have been intoxicated, feeling suicidal and threatening to stab himself with a knife, according to a NBC News, citing a federal complaint filed by the Albers family against Clayton Jenison and the City of Overland Park. His family was out that evening for dinner.
Clayton Jenison and another officer arrived to the home and lingered outside, according to dash cam and surveillance footage from that night. They did not knock or identify themselves, according to published reports.
Surveillance footage then showed the garage door then opened, and a minivan that Albers was driving backed out slowly in a straight line. Jenison reacted, unholstering the weapon, yelled “stop” repeatedly before shooting twice toward Albers, NBC News reported.
Albers was reportedly struck, and “unable to control the minivan” by that point, according to a family complaint, which led the car to stop, speed up in reverse, U-turn in the driveway then continue backing up. That’s when Jenson fired 11 more shots, NBC News reported, and the car eventually coasted in neutral into the driveway of a home across the street.
A toxicology report determined Albers was not under the influence at the time.
The incident, for which Jenison was never charged, led to a national outcry over allegations of police use of excessive force. A month after the shooting, the district attorney said an investigation determined that Jenison, “who said he feared for his life, was justified in his actions,” according to NBC News Jenison resigned months later and accepted a $70,000 severance agreement.
Albers’ family has been questioning the police account since his death. Officials “disseminated a false narrative, cleared the officer of wrongdoing in record time and structured a severance payout to the officer that killed john,” his mom said, according to NBC News.
The family settled with Overland Park in 2019 for $2.3 million, the Washington Post reported. The city did not admit liability and said it settled to avoid the cost and length of the litigation.
The City of Overland Park said officials will “fully cooperate” in the federal investigation, according to a statement. Overland Park did not respond to a request for comment and the Johnson County District Attorney’s office declined to comment.