Family of Tyrea Pryor calls for DOJ investigation into his death

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:45 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Tyrea Pryor was shot and killed by Independence police on March 11, 2022.

Police records show it started with a disturbance call for help. Strangers were yelling and banging on someone’s door who called police. Police showed up and saw a car matching the caller’s description in the driveway. They followed it but ended the chase after four blocks.

Police continued to follow the sedan at a normal speed without lights and sirens. The white sedan crashed into another vehicle. Dash camera video reveals a tense scene where police want to see Tyrea Pryor’s hands. He was pinned in the car. An AR-15 was also wedged in the car. An IPD officer climbed in the backseat and tried to remove it.

What happened next is something the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office calls “a series of ill-advised events that resulted in a terrible loss of life.”

Police removed a backseat and front seat passenger, and gave sharp commands to Mr. Pryor: “Don’t f------- move it or I will shoot you! Don’t move!”

An officer thought he saw a gun and warned other officers. Shots rang out. Police began looking for the gun. Below is an exchange from a collection of officers at the scene:

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has declined prosecution and released this statement to KCTV5: “We met with the family last month to express our condolences and discuss our review of the case. We informed them that, based on the evidence and law, this is not a case that could be criminally prosecuted. There was a series of ill-advised events that resulted in a terrible loss of life.”

Attorneys representing Tyrea Pryor’s family have a different take.

“This isn’t excessive force; it’s outrageous force,” said Attorney Harry Daniels. “These officers killed an unarmed man and almost killed an innocent bystander and a fellow officer. The district attorney may think that’s fine, but I seriously doubt the DOJ will.”

The Pryor family’s attorneys said the mix-up involves an IPD officer’s handgun. Officers outside the car saw the handgun of the officer inside the car. That officer was trying to remove the AR-15.

A civil lawsuit is expected and there is a call for a DOJ investigation.

“Mr. Pryor was unarmed, injured, incapacitated and posed no immediate threat to any officers or other individuals present at the crash scene or in the public,” Daniels wrote in the letter.

The family plans to protest the prosecutor’s decision outside the courthouse on Thursday.

KCTV5 contacted former FBI Special Agent Michael Tabman and asked him to review the video.

“You have to look at all the facts and what did the officers see? And, was what they saw a reasonable fear in their mind at the time that they were in danger?” said Tabman. “Remember that reasonable fear does not have to be correct; it just has to be reasonable given the totality of circumstances.”

Tabman said his initial reaction was that police acted “fairly responsible” leading up to the shooting, pointing out officers turned off lights and sirens and followed at a normal speed when pursuing the white sedan.

He points out a lack of communication could lead to an expensive lawsuit, but a lack of communication isn’t criminal.

“In a crisis situation, the three Cs: command, control and communication,” Tabman said. “Communication is critical to police work and it saves police officers by having good communications. So, in this case, it would appear that it didn’t properly communicate who was doing what and that led to the tragedy of the individual being shot.”

It is unclear how many videos prosecutors reviewed before making a decision. KCTV5 has only had access to one video.

UPDATE: On Thursday, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office released the following statement:

You can read the letter by clicking here.