Kansas City, MO – The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office is pushing back against allegations that Kansas City police shot an unarmed pregnant woman for no reason.
Protesters claimed that 26-year-old Leonna Hale was shot five times by Kansas City police after she simply told them there was a gun in the vehicle she was riding in during a traffic stop, the Daily Mail reported.
Witnesses alleged Hale was cooperating with police when they opened fire on her for no reason.
The shooting sparked outrage and led to protests and national news coverage, according to The Kansas City Star.
But on Wednesday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced that bodycam footage revealed the narrative underlying the backlash was completely inaccurate.
“Some false narratives about what happened last Friday night at 6th and Prospect Avenue, unfortunately, were relied upon by some media and other sources,” Baker said in a statement, according to KMBC. “Our job, as prosecutors, is to remain neutral and review all evidence. Our review of body cam videos provided the actual accounting of events that night.”
Kansas City police were out on patrol on May 27 after receiving a report of an armed carjacking that occurred across the state line in Kansas City, Kansas, earlier in the night, The Kansas City Star reported.
Local officers were notified that the suspects, a male and a female, were believed to be armed and were wanted in connection with the armed carjacking.
Officers spotted a vehicle matching the description of the stolen car sitting in the parking lot of a Family Dollar store located at 634 Prospect Avenue and approached the occupants, according to The Kansas City Star.
But as they were attempting to arrest the two suspects, a male jumped out of the driver’s seat and took off on foot.
Hale, who was a passenger in the stolen car, jumped out with a gun in her hand and started running towards the store.
Two Kansas City police officers opened fire on Hale, hitting her multiple times, according to The Kansas City Star.
Investigators said they found a gun on the ground next to the location where Hale fell.
Baker confirmed on Wednesday that bodycam footage proved that Hale “continually displayed a weapon during her encounter with police officers” prior to being shot, The Kansas City Star reported.
A still photo released by Baker’s office showed Hale holding a handgun while mid-stride.
Hale was transported to a local hospital, where she was listed in stable condition, the Daily Mail reported.
The male suspect was also transported to the hospital for an unrelated medical issue, according to police.
Witnesses said Hale told them she was pregnant, but Missouri Highway Patrol (MHP) spokesperson Sergeant Andrew Bell said investigators have determined that claim was likely false, the Daily Mail reported.
The doctors treating her have not confirmed whether or not the suspect was pregnant at the time of the shooting.
Much of the false reporting about the officer-involved shooting appears to tie back to a cell phone video posted to Facebook by She Danja, who said she witnessed the incident while taking her children to the store for ice cream, the Daily Mail reported.
Danja claimed in a May 31 Facebook post that she “had to take the video down” because it was “traumatizing the family and myself over and over.”
The video showed the aftermath of the shooting, to include officers handcuffing Hale as she was bleeding on the ground.
When Danja originally posted the widely-shared footage, she wrote that Hale had “put her hands up and was talking to [police] to show she didn’t have a weapon in her hand,” the Daily Mail reported.
“She did run three steps away when she got scared at them all coming towards her with guns in her face. That’s when she was shot that many times,” Danja alleged. “I’m literally in shock the whole video! I’m a whole medical assistant, and it’s literally not how you handle a gunshot victim who’s pregnant.”
The MHP is handling the ongoing investigation into the incident, the Daily Mail reported.
The two officers who fired their weapons during the encounter have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Baker confirmed on Wednesday that Hale has been charged with resisting arrest, exhibiting a firearm, and unlawful firearm possession, according to The Kansas City Star.
According to court documents, she insisted she never had a gun and refused to cooperate with a follow-up interview after investigators reviewed bodycam footage of the incident.
“Our review of the investigation revealed the defendant, although she denied having a weapon at the time of the encounter with law enforcement officers, continually displayed a weapon during her encounter with police officers and also appeared to be attempting to flee,” Baker said, according to KMBC.
“The two officers stated that she was armed with what they believed to be a handgun. Body camera footage confirms the officers’ statements that Hale was holding a handgun. Still photos, taken from body cam footage, of this encounter also demonstrate a weapon was present and in the hands of the defendant,” he added.