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‘Wasn’t Some Tragic Mistake’: Family Sues Missouri City and Cops Who Fired 15 Shots at Black Driver Pinned In Wrecked Vehicle ‘Over a Gun That Wasn’t There’

The family of 39-year-old Tyrea Pryor is suing a city in Missouri and two of the town’s officers after those cops shot and killed Pryor last year while he was injured and pinned in a wrecked vehicle.

The lawyers for the mothers of Pryor’s children filed a wrongful death lawsuit on May 11 against the city of Independence, Missouri, and the cops who shot Pryor — Jamie Welsh and Hunter Soule.

The family of Tyrea Pryor has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Independence, Missouri and the two officers who fatally shot Tyrea Pryor while he was pinned in a wrecked vehicle in March 2022.

According to the suit, those officers unloaded 15 gunshots on Pryor on March 11, 2022, at the scene of a car crash Pryor was involved in. While police did discover a rifle in Pryor’s car, they didn’t open fire until Welsh yelled that he saw Pryor with another weapon that wasn’t actually there.

Pryor’s family is being represented by attorneys Harry Daniels, John Burris, Arimeta DuPree, and Henry W. Tanner Jr. The suit cites that both Welsh and Soule used “unlawful and deadly force” against Pryor. The family is also claiming wrongful survival, battery, assault, and negligence.

Related: ‘We’ve Seen It Too Many Times’: Ohio Grand Jury Decides Cops Are Justified In Shooting at Black Man 90 Times As He Fled During Traffic Stop

“This wasn’t some tragic mistake,” Daniels stated on the family’s behalf. “Officers Welsh and Soule made a conscious and deliberate decision to fire 15 shots that not only killed Tyrea Pryor while he was unarmed, immobile and defenseless, but almost killed an innocent bystander and their fellow officer.”

Previously, the family petitioned Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker to bring the case to a grand jury and indict the two officers involved. Since Baker hasn’t introduced any charges, the family has requested the Justice Department open an investigation.

“From Tyrea Pryor to Oscar Grant, we’ve seen the same thing again and again,” said Burris, whose previous clients include Rodney King as well as the family of Oscar Grant, whose death at the hands of Bay Area Rapid Transit police was the basis for the critically acclaimed film “Fruitvale Station.”

“These officers think that badge is a license to kill and they don’t care who gets in the way.”

Police reports say the incident started when dispatchers got a call from a home about a disturbance.

A woman reported that three strangers got out of a white car and started banging on her front door. Welsh and Soule responded to the call, and when they arrived, they saw a white sedan pull out of the woman’s driveway and speed off. Pryor was in that car with two women.

Welsh and Soule pursued the vehicle until it crashed into another car. Both officers exited their squad car, and Soule approached Pryor’s car with his gun pointed at the driver’s door while Welsh checked on the driver in the other car.

Once Welsh determined that the other motorist was OK, he approached Pryor’s car, removed a woman from the back seat, placed her in a police vehicle, then approached the driver’s side of Pryor’s vehicle.

Pryor was reportedly pinned in the driver’s seat and partially obscured from view by the airbags that had deployed in the crash. Next to him was an AR-15-style rifle, wedged between his right leg and the car’s center console. Not long after Welsh and Soule responded to the crash scene, more officers arrived, including Officer Alex Steele, who had climbed into the back of Pryor’s car.

Another officer was by the front passenger door tending to the other woman who was in the car. She had been removed and placed on the ground.

When Steele saw the rifle, he warned Pryor not to move his right hand toward the weapon. Soule was holding Pryor’s left hand outside the driver’s window. While inside the car, Steele began to pull the wedged rifle from its position.

It was then that Steele heard Welsh yell that Pryor had another 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 showed the moments that ensued after. Welsh and Soule opened fire on Pryor while Steele was still in the car and another officer was by the front passenger door. Shots hit Pryor’s head and torso. After the flurry of gunfire, Pryor 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.

The video also 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.

The attorneys previously accused Welsh and Soule of “deadly incompetence” during the incident, and they voiced their confusion about the officers’ aggressive actions, especially since Pryor and his party had been in an accident and the pistol Welsh claimed to have seen “didn’t exist.”

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