A Kansas City police officer has been indicted by a Jackson County grand jury for a June 24, 2014, shooting. The officer is accused of shooting a man while trying to arrest him.
Jacob I. Ramsey, 31, faces charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
In an exclusive interview with KCTV5, Anthony Contreras said Friday night he is relieved the grand jury took action against the officer.
The shooting happened at the home of then-37-year-old Contreras at East 15th Terrace and Fremont Avenue. Police had gone there to find Contreras because he had warrants out for his arrest. According to court records, a warrant was issued on that day for failure to appear on a 2012 case of burglary, tampering with a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.
A spokesperson for the Kansas City, MO, Police Department said officers made contact with Contreras, but he ran. During the chase an officer shot him.
In an interview with Contreras' girlfriend, she said she was with him on the front porch when he saw police coming to pick him up for a warrant on some property crimes. She said he got scared because he was on house arrest and ran out the back door. He was just about to bail, she said, when he was shot in the face.
She insists he didn't have a weapon and believes there was no reason for police to shoot him.
“As soon as he went out the back door, we heard the screen door open and we heard a gunshot. He had nothing in his hands at all. There was no reason for them to shoot him,” Katherine Burriss said at the time.
"It went in my jaw. Shattered all my teeth, went through my tongue. And then also it came out right here at the side of my face," Contreras said Friday.
A release from police detailing the incident had said the officer fired, believing Contreras was preparing to shoot him.
Sean McCauley, Ramsey's attorney, said police recovered a screwdriver from Contreras and that he was reaching for it when he was shot. His girlfriend said he was using it earlier in the day to fix a door.
Contreras recounted the events of 2014 during an interview with KCTV5. He said prosecutors did not alert him before the indictment was handed down against Ramsey. Contreras girlfriend was home with their new baby when she got the news and passed it on.
Contreras said his feelings toward the officer now are vastly different from when the shooting happened eight months ago.
"In the beginning, yeah, there was a lot of anger and confusion, wanted to know why this happened to me. But for today I just wish him and his family the best of luck. And I just hope the justice system does its job," he said.
Contreras says the grand jury proceeding provided him great relief by answering questions that had been plaguing him.
"Emotionally it's been a roller coaster. This event that happened to me did more emotionally to me than physical. It's with me every day, and it's a struggle to overcome mentally what's happened," he said.
Contreras' girlfriend admits he had a checkered past. She said he was well known to police, with 22 felony charges in just three years, but most were for property crimes, resisting arrest and drug use, so she says the officer should have known not to treat him as a violent offender.
She calls news of the grand jury decision "a wonderful feeling."
"He had to have a trach for two months. He's had three surgeries already. He has to have four more surgeries. He can't talk the way he used to. He lost four, now five teeth because they had to take another one out last week. He has suffered so much mentally and physically for this that he deserves justice," Burriss said Friday.
After the shooting Ramsey was put on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in any officer-involved shooting.
A month later Contreras was in trouble with the law again. He was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and resisting arrest in December for two crimes that allegedly happened July 27.
The indictment became public Friday afternoon when Ramsey appeared in court for arraignment on it. A Jackson County judge entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf. Ramsey's attorney waived his right to a jury trial and requested a bench trial before the judge. The trial has been set for April 2 and April 3.
The grand jury's responsibility is to determine whether probable cause exists that a crime was committed. The grand jury only hears from prosecution and nothing from defense. They recommended that charges be filed. Grand jury proceedings are secret so it's not known what Ramsey did that led grand jurors to believe he exceeded his authority and crossed the blue line.
The trial judge's responsibility will be to determine whether there's sufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
No probable cause statement was issued with the indictment of Ramsey because the grand jury investigated the officer-involved shooting.
Ramsey is a nearly five-year veteran of the department and is assigned to the Tactical Enforcement Unit. He is on unpaid administrative leave.
Chief Darryl Forte tweeted about the decision, saying "@kcpolice Five year veteran of KCPD indicted for non-fatal shooting-occurred in June 2014. Stressful period for all involved."
He later added, "Today ranks in the top three of my most stressful days of being chief. I saw the pain on the officers face at the arraignment."
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #99 released a statement defending Ramsey's actions.
"Officer Jacob Ramsey justifiably defended himself against a felon previously convicted of resisting arrest, narcotics and illegal possession of a firearm. Officer Ramsey's actions were in compliance with state and federal law and all Departmental policies. The FOP and its members stand firmly behind Officer Ramsey, who has a flawless record and is an impeccable police officer. The FOP will devote all of its substantial resources to the defense of Officer Ramsey, and will stand by him throughout this process, which will ultimately lead to his acquittal. The FOP and Officer Ramsey will not have any further comment on this issue and we ask that the media respect Officer Ramsey's privacy as he and his family prepare to fight these baseless charges."
The FOP says the organization is confident Ramsey will ultimately be acquitted at trial.
Court records show that Contreras has one charge, in 2010, for criminal possession of a firearm, though the majority were for drugs, stealing and fleeing.
The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office declined an interview request, but this isn't the first time the office has charged a KCPD officer. Carl Counti served 30 days shock time for an assault in 2013. In 2012, a police officer was accused of raping two women.
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