Tyrea Pryor’s relatives file lawsuit against Independence, 2 officers following fatal shooting

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 6:36 PM CDT
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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KCTV) - Attorneys representing the family of Tyrea Pryor have filed a $25 million federal civil lawsuit against the City of Independence and two Independence police officers.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pryor’s children. Pryor’s attorneys contend excessive force was used during the investigation, which caused a wrongful death. His attorneys believe officers violated Pryor’s Fourth Amendment right that protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“We want justice for our loved one,” Pryor’s brother-in-law, Nigel Johnson, said. “His children shouldn’t have to grow up without a father.”

The investigation began after a 911 caller reported someone was banging on their door, possibly attempting to kick in the door. Police said that, when they arrived, the driver of a white car sped off.

Court records reveal Independence police terminated the pursuit but the driver of the white car they were following crashed into another car. Video footage released by Pryor’s attorneys showed the aftermath of the crash and shooting.

Pryor’s attorneys said Pryor was injured from the crash when officers surrounded the car. “Tyrea did not point a gun. He did not engage in threatening activity,” attorney John Burris said. “You have to answer, ‘What was imminent about this?’”

According to court records, one officer got into the backseat of the crashed car “to determine if there were any threats in the car and to examine the extent of the injuries to the driver.”

One officer reported that, from his vantage point, he could see only the “butt stock” of a rifle, which was starting to move as if it was moving upward. As the weapon started to move, an officer yelled, “Gun!” and fired. A second officer fired.

“The rifle they were talking about was secured. The officer had his hands on it,” attorney Harry Daniels said. “He stated to investigators he had his hand on it.”

Prosecutors reviewed dash camera video that showed officers knew there was an AR-15 inside the car Pryor was driving. One officer believed he also saw a pistol, but no second weapon was found.

“The AR was stuck, wedged,” Daniels said. “Even after the shooting, they still had a difficult time trying to remove it.”

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office previously released an 11-page letter detailing what information and evidence was reviewed to make a charging decision.

The letter explained the legal standard requires “reasonable belief,” determining if the officers had reasonable belief that they were in danger. According to the letter, “the law does not require that a belief be found to be true for it to be reasonable.”

“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,” the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office letter stated.

Independence Police Chief Adam Dustman previously released a written statement. It said, in part:

“The men and women of the Independence Police Department are sworn to keep people safe, and when there is a fatality, it weighs heavily on all of us. Any loss of life is tragic. We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed by the family of Tyrea Pryor, but neither the officers nor the City have been served. As with any officer-involved shooting, this case was investigated independently by an outside agency in this instance the Missouri State Highway Patrol and then evaluated by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, which determined that charges would not be sought against the officers. We are constantly working to improve our ability to respond to intense situations and ensure our officers are prepared to provide the services needed during any call they receive.”

Attorneys representing Pryor’s family asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.

A spokesperson for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said prosecutors will forward the case to federal authorities for a separate review.

Previous coverage:

Family of man shot to death by Independence police files federal lawsuit

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

Tyrea Pryor’s family rallies for charges following fatal police shooting, prosecutor explains reasoning

Family of Tyrea Pryor calls for DOJ investigation into his death