A bystander’s video shows the chaotic immediate aftermath of an officer-involved shooting last week that left a Topeka man dead.
“They just shot him. They just shot him,” says someone off-camera in the video. “Pow — pow-pow-pow-pow-pow. ... Stay alive bruh.”
White’s killing has prompted his family to demand transparency from investigators — something they say is lacking in the first week after the shooting.
In the video, a group of onlookers began to gather nearby as Dominique White, 30, lay in the street at the intersection of Southeast Third and Southeast Lawrence streets in Topeka. People could be heard crying out.
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In the video, an officer drove onto the grass, temporarily obscuring the scene. Other officers huddled around White and created a buffer between themselves and the agitated crowd.
Other than the footage and several details released by Topeka police and Lawrence police, who have taken over the investigation at Topeka’s request, White’s family say they know little about the circumstances of the Sept. 28 shooting. The family has still not been told by authorities White’s cause of death, his time of death or how many times he was shot, according to Amber Joyce, White’s sister-in-law.
“We don’t know anything,” she said. “There’s a lack of communication. We can’t even call somebody.”
The family held a rally Saturday at Ripley Park, near the scene of the incident.
“When Ferguson first hit the news three years ago, many thought this could not happen in Topeka,” the family said in a statement. “We knew differently, that it was just a matter of time.”
The two departments released two different but not conflicting accounts of the incident. Lawrence police said White was shot “immediately following the struggle.” Topeka police said he was shot while fleeing from the officers. “The individual reached for the pocket containing the firearm, causing the officers to fire their weapons,” Topeka Police Lt. Colleen Stuart told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
White was initially encountered as a “suspicious person in the area,” Stuart said, and the struggle began “in the process of trying to secure (White’s) firearm.
Police were responding to reports of shots fired in the area.
White, who was black, had four children.
Some of his relatives and friends question whether his race was a factor in the incident. Others say they would like to learn more details before asking those questions.
“When a police officer shoots a citizen, they are acting in place of this system,” the family said in its statement Saturday. “Additionally, we know our system is deeply flawed and clearly functions prejudicially toward people of color, especially young men of color.”
White’s mother said that given the lack of information, it’s unclear whether race played a factor.
“We pray it isn’t, but the reality is it could very well be,” said Theresa Joyce-Wynne.
The family has called for a special prosecutor in the case and has asked politicians to urge law enforcement officials to release more information.
Luther Ganieany, a legal adviser for Topeka police, cited concerns for the officers’ safety as justification for not releasing their names, and Lawrence police also denied the release of records such as body-camera footage from the incident to avoid interference with the ongoing investigation, according to the Capital-Journal.
Joyce, White’s sister-in-law, and his mother said there was an initial meeting with police and a follow-up, but investigators were only seeking information about witnesses.
“They cannot count coming to my son’s father’s house, just hours after we left the hospital, and asking how to find an eyewitness as an initial meeting,” said Joyce-Wynne.
Molly Hadfield, a spokeswoman for the city of Topeka, said: “The Topeka Police Department actually was in contact with Dominique White’s family three times. His family also has the contact information for the Topeka and Lawrence Police Departments.”
Kansas state Rep. John Alcala, a Topeka Democrat who served more than 10 years on the Topeka City Council ending in 2012, called for more communication between law enforcement and White’s family.
“I know there’s information they can talk about with the family that does not create liability (for the city),” Alcala said. “That is (showing) compassion for the family — that’s still their son and they have concerns.”
In response to a letter to the city in which Alcala expressed similar sentiments, Gerber responded that he would “look into the issue,” according to his email obtained by The Star.
“The City and TPD need to maintain some distance from the investigation,” Gerber said, “and I’m not sure we’ll be able to provide the answers anyone wants at this point.”
To donate to a funeral expense fund benefiting White’s family, visit this Facebook page.