Johnson County DA: Fatal Olathe police shooting justified, no charges will be filed

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT
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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. (KCTV) - On Wednesday, Johnson County’s district attorney announced charges will not be filed against an officer who shot and killed 27-year-old Brandon Lynch on New Year’s Eve last year.

District Attorney Steve Howe said that, after a review of the facts and evidence, he determined the use of deadly force was justified.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Howe shared a 911 call for help, body camera video, a diagram, and photos of the scene from the night of the shooting to explain his decision.

The investigation began when a relative called 911 to report Lynch had punched her in the face several times. “He is going on a rampage every day, saying how he wants to kill everyone in the house,” the relative told dispatchers.

Body camera video showed officers first spoke with the victim at the front door. The victim told officers Lynch was in a downstairs room. When officers saw Lynch had weapons, they ordered him to put them down. “Put that knife down. Put it down. Put it down,” an officer said, as they went up the staircase inside the home.

Howe said the officers retreated to try to deescalate the situation. The body camera video showed the officers used a Taser twice. The Taser is considered a less lethal weapon. It did not have an effect on Lynch, who still had a butterfly knife in his hand.

A nine-page report released by the D.A. stated that the Johnson County Officer Involved Critical Incident Investigative Team reviewed the evidence, including body camera video that showed officers told Lynch multiple times to drop his weapons and they told him not to step toward them with a knife.

The D.A. said that when Lynch moved toward the officers with a “sharp edged weapon” he was within about 15 feet of the officer. The officer fired three shots that struck and killed Lynch.

“Based on the science that is out there,” the D.A. said, “it was very reasonable for this officer -- based on the distance that Mr. Lynch was from him and approaching closer -- that he was in threat of great bodily harm to himself and that deadly force was necessary and also reasonable under Kansas law.”

According to District Attorney Howe, Lynch had been involuntarily committed in 2022. He was under the Mental Health Department’s care and was released from an outpatient treatment order about 30 days before the shooting.

According to that nine-page report, Olathe police had been called to incidents where Lynch was accused of assaulting family members before. Officers were aware of his mental health status before arriving at the home. Howe said a co-responder who specializes in dealing with mental health and individuals in crisis would not have entered a home while someone was armed with weapons.

“Until the scene is secure and safe, they will not engage with an individual,” Howe said. “As you saw from this videotape, it was not a controlled situation. There was an individual with a weapon and, in those situations, co-responders are not inserted into that situation for their health and wellbeing.”

Olathe Police Chief Mike Butaud said Olathe police are members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police One Mind Campaign, which requires establishing a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with one or more community health organizations. The campaign also requires departments develop and implement a model policy addressing law enforcement response to individuals with mental health conditions.

“To date, our behavioral health unit ACT -- Advanced Crisis Intervention Team -- along with our Johnson County Mental Health Responders have come to the aid of many thousands of people in need,” Butaud said. “Unfortunately, despite our best attempts, no police officer can ultimately control the decisions or the behaviors of people we contact with. Even the best trained and best prepared departments can never guarantee this type of outcome will never happen.”

The family of Brandon Lynch and their attorneys released a written statement that said: “We are immensely disappointed with the Johnson County District Attorney’s decision not to charge the officer who shot and killed Brandon. We disagree with the determination that the officer’s use of deadly force was reasonable and will continue to pursue justice on his behalf.”

One officer who was at the scene has already returned to work for the police department. The second officer is expected to return to work following the district attorney’s findings.