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A Jackson County civil process server was killed during an eviction. What is their job?

Drexel Mack was a civil process server who had worked for Jackson County Circuit Court for 12 years before he was shot and killed on the job Thursday, while carrying out an eviction at a house in Independence.

The home’s former owner, Larry D. Acree, has been charged with multiple felony counts, including two charges of first degree murder, for the deaths of Mack and Independence Police Officer Cody Allen.

The courts had been in the process of seizing Acree’s home for the past year over a large debt of unpaid taxes.

After posting a “notice to vacate” at the home last week, Mack had returned on Thursday with two other people to “physically evict persons and property,” according to court records filed Friday.

After knocking and announcing their presence in an attempt to carry out the eviction, officials got no answer and began removing the locks on the door with a drill, court records say. While doing so, they were reportedly met with gunfire. Mack was shot and fell to the floor inside the front entrance.

Officers responded and attempted to retrieve Mack. That’s when, court records say, Officer Allen was shot and killed, and other officers were also wounded. Officers then reportedly returned fire. The suspect was taken into custody with minor injuries.

Drexel Mack, a civil process server for the Jackson County Circuit Court, was shot and killed during an eviction Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Independence. Mack had worked for the court for 12 years. An independence police also died.
Drexel Mack, a civil process server for the Jackson County Circuit Court, was shot and killed during an eviction Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Independence. Mack had worked for the court for 12 years. An independence police also died.

What does a civil process server do?

Civil process servers perform the same duties as a sheriff’s civil division in other Missouri counties, the Jackson County Circuit Court’s website says. These duties include:

  • Serving court summonses

  • Serving protection orders

  • Serving notices

  • Serving subpoenas

  • And executing other court orders.

“We are simply devastated that someone who is doing their job on behalf of the Court could be shot and killed,” said Presiding Judge Jalilah Otto in a statement Thursday. “Every day there are people at the Court who serve legal papers and who handle evictions and that is their job, and they perform their jobs diligently. Our hearts are very heavy and we send our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Mack, and the families of the Independence Police Department officers who also suffered tragedies today.”

In its use of force policy, the court’s Department of Civil Process recognizes process servers may encounter people in crisis and that those encounters could lead to unsafe situations for its staff and others.

Civil process servers have to serve notices to people in person. There is no set number of times they will make an attempt, as they will make diligent attempts of service until the paper expires, according to the court’s website.

Servers attempt to serve notices at any time when a person would be available to be served, which includes nights and weekends.

The role is similar to court deputies, who receive training in firearms for their safety and are taught first and foremost to completely disengage if incidents escalate.

“The field staff’s training is to recognize a threat, disengage or retreat from the threat, and only to utilize force if the individual continues to advance or presents an imminent threat,” said Jackson County Court spokeswoman Valerie Hartman after a 2021 shooting as court deputies attempted to serve an eviction notice in Blue Springs.