Lawyers for the family of a Black man killed in his wrecked car by police in suburban Kansas City, Missouri, last year claim a newly released video show he was no threat to the officers when they opened fire on him while standing next to his vehicle.
Two people — including another officer in the back seat of the Black man’s car as his fellow cops were firing into it — were placed in harm’s way as a flurry of bullets struck and killed Tyrea M. Pryor.
A year after the March 11, 2022, shooting, dashcam footage and police reports about the incident have been released.
Attorneys Harry Daniels and Arimeta DuPree represent the interests of the Kansas City man’s family. The family wants justice to be served in what they believe is a wrongful death.
The lawyers say the Missouri State Highway Patrol concluded an investigation and released evidence showing Independence Police Department officers trapped the 39-year-old in his wrecked car before gunning him down under the pretext that he had a handgun.
A press release from the attorney’s office accuses two IDP officers, Jamie Welsh, and Hunter Soule, of “deadly incompetence” during the incident.
The events of that evening were set in motion when Independence police responded to a call from a home about a disturbance.
The woman told dispatch three people she did not know had gotten out of a white vehicle and were banging on her door. When Welsh and Soule pulled up in their squad vehicles at the scene of the complaint, a white sedan exited the complainant’s driveway and sped away from the area, the officers told investigators.
Pryor was in that car with two women.
Welsh and Soule immediately set off in pursuit of the car, following it for a few blocks until both deactivated their lights, and Welsh slowed to a normal speed as he continued to track the still-speeding Pryor. Shortly afterward, Pryor crashed in an accident with another vehicle on 24 Highway near Noland Road. Welsh and Soule were the first two officers to respond to the crash site. The two immediately began treating the scene as a felony stop.
Police reports show Soule approached the Pryor’s driver’s side door and held him at gunpoint as Welsh checked on the other driver involved in the accident. After determining the other motorist was OK, Welsh returned to Pryor’s car, removed the woman in the back seat from the car, and put her in his police vehicle. Then he returned to the crumpled driver’s door as the injured Black man was pinned in his seat and partially obscured from view by the airbags that had deployed in the crash.
Next to Pryor, between his right leg and the car center’s console, was an AR-15-style rifle.
By now, several more officers had responded to the scene, including Officer Alex Steele. Steele told police investigators he climbed into the back seat of the Pryor’s car as the injured woman in the front seat was tended to and removed to the ground by another IPD officer. It was then that Steele discovered the rifle and warned Pryor — whose left arm was being held outside of the driver’s window by Soule — not to move his right hand toward the rifle.
Steele was still inside the car, trying to extract the wedged rifle from its position. It was then that Steele heard Welsh yell that Pryor had a gun.
“At that time, I saw the suspect’s hand was moving, and it looked like he was pulling back towards his body, and I observed a gun in his hand,” Welsh said days later in a statement to the Missouri Highway Patrol investigators. “His hand was wrapped around the pistol grip, and at that point in time, he was pulling it back out, or back towards his body, and up towards the steering wheel area, and I believed it was going to be pointed at me.”
Dashcam video depicts the mayhem that erupted next as the Welsh and Soule opened fire on Pryor with their own officer inside the car dodging the volley of shots and another IPD officer across from the pair at the front passenger door.
Pryor, already injured from the wreck and with his legs still pinned, was hit in the head and torso. He later was dragged across the seat and handcuffed with his head hanging from the edge of the seat outside of the car even as the officers noted he was showing no signs of life.
Video shows that after removing the rifle, one of the officers reaches around inside the front seat area and repeatedly says, “I don’t see a pistol.”
No handgun was found at the scene. Police later would change their account to cite the rifle as the rationale for shooting Pryor.
Daniels says he doesn’t understand why the officers responded so aggressively during the incident, particularly since Pryor and his party had been in an accident.
“What was a simple patrol officer armed like a member of a SWAT team with nearly 80 rounds on his gun belt?” Daniels posed in his press release. “Why were they conducting a felony car stop on an accident with injuries? Why did Soule fire when he admitted he didn’t even see a gun?”
While many questions remain, the lawyers are calling for justice to be served and for the courts to hold the officers responsible for Pryor’s death accountable.