Fatal police shooting in Independence happened after reports of gunfire, neighbor says

A sharp noise behind Harry Sappington’s Independence home drew his attention late Thursday afternoon. Was someone banging on his window? Kids pulling a prank on their way home from school?

Instead, he found something odd in his backyard: a man lying in the grass.

Sappington asked the man — who he said he recognized from an encounter with police in the neighborhood last year — about the noise, and, he said, the man responded with hand motions like he was firing a gun into the air. Sappington never saw the man holding a firearm, but said he saw what he believed was the outline of one in a fanny pack on the man’s waist. He now believes the initial sound he heard was gunfire.

He told the man that he shouldn’t be firing a weapon in the city. “‘OK, I do that no more,’” Sappington recalled the man saying in response.

The two men parted ways after a brief conversation — Sappington back to his home, and the other man to an adjacent residence.

Neighbors asked about the disturbance and called law enforcement.

A short time later, the man would be fatally shot by Independence police who were investigating the gunfire.

Officers were called around 4:40 p.m. to the 700 block of North Frandsen Road for the gunshots, and they encountered a man at a home there, according to a news release from Officer Jack Taylor, an Independence police spokesperson.

Police gave commands to the man, and Sappington said he saw the police response and heard their orders for the man to get down and drop a weapon.

“Apparently either some or none of that occurred,” he said. “Officers decided that their lives were in danger.”

He counted eight shots.

Police said a gun was found near where officers confronted the man, and that the man was wearing a fanny pack that contained ammunition.

Police investigated at the scene late into the night, neighbors said, and crime scene tape hung in the area Friday.

Sappington and another neighbor recalled a previous confrontation the man had with police in the same area last year, in which he had been surrounded by officers and had fought with them. The details of that incident were not clear as of Friday.

A man who spoke to a reporter from The Star on Friday through a shattered glass door at the home where the police shooting occurred said that he had lived at the residence since 2018, but did not know the man who was killed. He said he had been at work the previous evening, but learned about the initial shots that had been fired in the backyard and heard police had later ordered the man “not to reach for it.”

Investigators have not yet released the identity of the man killed.

A team of detectives from law enforcement departments in eastern Jackson County, called the Police Involved Incident Team, is investigating the shooting. Under its policy, the Independence Police Department does not investigate shootings that involve its officers.

Both officers who discharged their weapons Thursday were placed on automatic administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing.

An officer involved shooting occurred at the 700th block of North Frandsen Road on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Independence. One man was killed.
An officer involved shooting occurred at the 700th block of North Frandsen Road on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Independence. One man was killed.

The Star’s Bill Lukitsch contributed to this report.