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Family of Malcolm Johnson, who was shot and killed by KC police officer, files lawsuit

Katie Moore, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

The family of a man who was shot by a Kansas City Police Department officer at a gas station on the East Side in 2021 has filed a wrongful death case.

The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court on Feb. 12.

Malcolm Johnson, a 31-year-old Black man, was killed March 25, 2021. The shooting was criticized by community leaders who for years have raised concerns about KCPD’s use of force, particularly against people of color.

In Johnson’s case, local leaders also pointed to discrepancies between the police department’s initial account of events and videos from the scene obtained days after the shooting. Experts who reviewed one of the videos also said the two officers who initially confronted Johnson in the gas station did not give him a chance to surrender and put bystanders at risk.

Johnson was under surveillance as a suspect in a shooting. Officers Jeremy Gragg and Edward Morales cornered him with their guns drawn inside the BP gas station at 6245 Prospect Avenue.

Johnson tried to get away and a struggle unfolded. More officers joined the fight, which spilled into an aisle of the convenience store.

“At one point, we all kind of had him and it seemed like we were fighting against each other and fighting him at the same time,” Morales told Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators.

Then Johnson appeared to be reaching and Gragg called out for someone to shoot him.


“As I moved up and away from him, his handgun did discharge and hit me in my right leg,” Gragg told Highway Patrol investigators.

“Being in fear for my life, of already being shot and in fear for all their (officers’) lives with him still in control of his handgun, I drew my handgun,” Gragg continued. “I was able to get an angle into the top of his head that was facing away from my guys and I discharged my handgun twice and he was hit.”

“He went motionless on the ground.”

The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office handled the charging decisions after Jackson County prosecutors cited a conflict of interest in handling the case. In March 2023, officials announced charges would not be pursued against the officer who killed Johnson.

The lawsuit names Gragg and Morales, five other officers and unknown officers as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, the officers did not try to use less lethal options and acted with an “evil motive or reckless indifference to, and conscious disregard for the life and rights of Johnson.”

The Kansas City Police Department declined to comment on the litigation “to ensure fairness for all sides involved,” Sgt. Phil DiMartino, a department spokesman, said.

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