Lawyers release statement after prosecutor doesn’t file charges in Tyrea Pryor’s death

Attorneys and family members of Tyrea Pryor rallied Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse.
Attorneys and family members of Tyrea Pryor rallied Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse.(Angie Ricono)
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 1:38 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Lawyers representing the family of Tyrea Pryor questioned the logic Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office used to criminally clear Independence Police officers who shot and killed a Black man about a year ago.

Baker released a lengthy 11-page explanation outlining Missouri law for use of force and “reasonable belief” — did the officers reasonably believe they were in danger?

“The law does not require that a belief be found to be true for it to be reasonable,” she said in the letter.

Pryor family attorneys fired back:

Case history

Tyrea Pryor was shot and killed by Independence Police on March 11, 2022.

Police records showed it started with a disturbance call for help. Strangers were yelling and banging on someone’s door who had called police. Law enforcement arrived 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 revealed a tense scene where police wanted to see Tyrea Pryor’s hands. H 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 was something the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office called “a series of ill-advised events that resulted in a terrible loss of life.”

Video and police reports revealed a communications breakdown. Officers who fired their guns didn’t realize another officer with a gun was in the back of the Dodge, moving around, trying to get the AR-15 rifle out.

Civil suit and federal review expected

Attorneys and family members of Pryor rallied Thursday at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Pryor’s 17-year-old son recalled the early morning he learned his father was dead and how he was trying to hold things together for his younger siblings.

“It’s very hurting,” said Tyrea Pryor, Jr. “I feel like it could happen to me too. Can we please hold those police officers accountable for they did?”

The family wants a Department of Justice review. The Jackson County Prosecutor sent her lengthy letter to federal investigators for an independent review.

She also defended why she didn’t use a grand jury.

Some citizens have questioned why we did not present this officer-involved shooting to a Jackson County grand jury. Our policy created in consultation with the community is to use a grand jury only when witnesses’ credibility is in question. That was not found under these facts. Using a grand jury will also restrict how much our office can share publicly about testimony and evidence. We prefer to use as open a process as possible.

You can read the full letter below.

The letter concluded, “We do not believe the facts and law support charges here... our Committee did not come to this decision lightly and this decision should not be interpreted as a statement indicating that the State believes the ‘right’ or ‘just’ thing happened.”

What does an expert think?

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. And remember that reasonable fear does not have to be correct. It just has to be reasonable, given the totality of circumstances,” said Tabman.

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 pointed 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 C’s: command, control and communication. 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,” said Tabman.