Police Shooting Death in 2013 Raises Questions. McCallister Law Firm Organizes Peace Vigil and Seeks Answers.

KC Stand Up: Justice Equality #LivesMatterRyan Stokes was just 23 years old when he was shot and killed by Kansas City Missouri police officer, William Thompson in the Power & Light District. Ryan was unarmed.

While in Power & Light that night, one of Ryan’s friends had been accosted by a rowdy young white man, who falsely accused him of stealing his cell phone. After Ryan had stepped in to help separate his friend from the rowdy young man, teargas was shot into the crowd by Kansas City Missouri Police. After teargas was shot into the crowd, Ryan headed toward his friend’s car to leave Power & Light for the night. He had just made it to the car, not even a minute after the teargas was dispersed. It was there, in a parking lot next to his friend’s car, when Ryan was shot and killed. All he had on him were the keys to the car, some Juicy Fruit gum and his cell phone.

So why is yet another young, unarmed African-American man shot down by police? Why did police later deceive Ryan’s mother and tell her Ryan was in a “standoff” with police, after he had been shot and killed, when all he was doing was going to his friend’s car? Why did Officer Thompson say in an official police interview that he commanded Ryan three times to “drop his gun” when Ryan Stokes was unarmed? And why did Thompson’s fellow officers nearby – as well as eyewitnesses – say in official police interviews that they never heard such commands?

These are just some of the questions of a grieving Mother, Narene Stokes, who will not rest until these questions have been answered. And the McCallister Law Firm is helping her find those answers.

“Sometimes, a lawsuit is not always the very first thing a grieving family should do,” said Brian McCallister, a principal with and owner of the McCallister Law Firm. “When a family is grieving, they want answers. They want their loved one’s real-life story to come out so they can begin to heal. Lawsuits take time and we wanted the Stokes family to begin healing now,” said McCallister.

We wanted to “reclaim Ryan’s identity and make him part of the national conversation,” said Cyndy Short, one of the Stokes family lawyers and a principal with McCallister Law Firm. So in July 2015, Ryan’s family and the McCallister Law Firm organized a weekend of events honoring Ryan’s life including a candlelight vigil, a basketball tournament and memorial service. Over one hundred people came to the vigil, held on July 24, 2015. And local news station, KCPT was there to cover it. Click here to see it.

In 2014, KMBC news anchor, Lara Moritz did a story on the Ryan Stokes shooting on the heels of another police shooting of a young, unarmed African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri which received national attention. Click here to see Lara Moritz’s news story.

Of great concern to the Stokes family is why Officer Thompson was “cleared” of any criminal wrongdoing so quickly – only three weeks after killing Ryan Stokes – by a grand jury in Kansas City. Part of the reason may be that since at least 2006, grand jurors in Kansas City have been invited to the Kansas City Regional Police Department’s Regional Crime Laboratory and given “training” on how difficult police have it when confronted with whether to shoot or not shoot. As part of the training, the grand jurors get to actually use the academy’s training simulator, which replicates dangerous situations and often portrays officers at a disadvantage if they wait too long to fire their weapons. According to a former prosecutor in Kansas City, this practice is “outrageous,” unfairly taints grand jurors in police shootings that come before them and the practice should stop.

And in an editorial recently written by Barbara Shelly, she urges this practice to stop so grand jurors are not so quick to “clear” police in these shootings. Click here to read her story in the Kansas City Star, August 6, 2015.

The story the Stokes family wants to be heard is not the one told by police immediately after Ryan Stokes was shot and killed. Families like Ryan’s are at a great disadvantage when police begin telling a story that, at its core, is fundamentally wrong, which is then repeated over and over by the media, whether accurate or inaccurate. The McCallister Law Firm and the Stokes family seek justice for Ryan. He deserves to have his good name back. Click here to see what his Mother, Narene wants you to know about Ryan Stokes.