Within a minute of being shot in the leg, Kansas City police officer Jeremy Gragg, who was able to walk on his own, got into a patrol car which sped off for a nearby hospital.
Gragg, 39, had returned fire twice at the suspect, striking Malcolm Johnson in the head. It took seven minutes to get Johnson loaded onto a stretcher to go to the hospital.
Johnson, 31, died at Research Medical Center.
The Star obtained the case file from the March 25, 2021, police shooting from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the agency that investigated the killing. The documents include hundreds of photographs from the scene and the hospital. It also contains videos, audio files, hundreds of pages of reports and crime lab reports. The file became an open record after the case was closed in March of this year and records became available after they were reviewed by the highway patrol earlier this month.
Gragg, who is white, shot Johnson inside the BP gas station at 6245 Prospect Avenue. He and Officer Edward Morales were the first to confront Johnson and were joined by five other officers during the ensuing fight.
None of the seven officers were wearing body cameras — the department was not fully equipped with the devices until the next month.
Experts and community members expressed concerns about what the case file shows, and in particular, the amount of time it took for Johnson, a Black man, to get to the hospital.
“It speaks to the mentality that they have and how they really feel about Black and brown people in the community,” said Khadijah Hardaway, a local activist and who served as spokesperson for Johnson’s family.
Brent Turvey, a policing expert with the Forensic Criminology Institute based in Alaska, who reviewed videos of Johnson’s killing, said the most serious injuries should get more attention. He was also critical of the amount of time highway patrol investigators spent questioning Gragg and Morales, calling it “weak tea.”
The Star provided the Kansas City Police Department with a surveillance video and a 60-page report of the investigation and asked a department spokesman what live-saving measures the officers provided Johnson following the shooting.
Capt. Corey Carlisle said in an email, “I appreciate the referenced material. MSHP was the investigating agency. Any questions in regards to this actual case has to go through them.”
The Missouri State Highway Patrol did not respond to a request for comment from The Star.
In March, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which was called in due to a conflict of interest in reviewing the case with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, announced no officers would be charged in Johnson’s death.
In a written statement, Christopher King, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said they regret the loss of Johnson as well as the injury to Gragg, “regardless of the legal conclusions, any loss of life and injury to an officer is tragic.”
‘Go hunt bad guys’
Johnson was being surveilled as a suspect in a shooting earlier that month. He was always armed, Gragg and Morales had been told. The pair were part of the metro impact squad, they said in video taped interviews from the case file.
“A lot of times what we do is we go hunt bad guys with warrants,” Morales told investigators during his interview about the police shooting.
The officers followed Johnson to the gas station and cornered him in the shop with their guns drawn.
Johnson tried to get away and a struggle unfolded.
As Morales described the start of the encounter to investigators, he could not remember Johnson’s first name. Instead, he refers to Johnson as “the bad guy” several times.
The fight continued with more officers joining in an aisle of the store, which Morales described as “very, very, very tight.”
“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,” he told 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 said.
“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.”
On a surveillance recording from the shop and dash camera videos, officers are observed yelling, “Shots fired,” and asking for a rag, which they give to Gragg. In the video, Gragg is seen hobbling out with two other officers and a sergeant who rushes into her patrol vehicle and takes him to the hospital.
Meanwhile, a few officers stay with Johnson, who is not in the frame of the surveillance video. A bystander is seen walking out of the store with his hands up. About two-and-a-half minutes after Johnson is shot, an officer gets a roll of paper towels for him.
On April 5, 2021, Gragg and Morales were interviewed separately at a highway patrol office. Gragg’s interview lasted 29 minutes while Morales’ took 41 minutes, which included time to view footage.
Turvey called that length of time “ludicrous.”
“This incident requires attention,” he said. “A half hour is a pro forma non-investigative interview. That’s just an administrative how do we make this go away (interview).”
He also said referring to Johnson as “the bad guy” was “ideological.”
“This is a reflection of the us versus them mentality that causes these kinds of circumstances to go sideways and that gives them the moral authority to execute people,” Turvey said.
As for the amount of time it took for Johnson to get professional medical help, Turvey said the priority was the officer.
The police department trains its officers on CPR and tourniquets, said Carlisle, the KCPD spokesman.
The department has been questioned previously on the length of time it’s taken to get medical help. In a December 2019 police shooting, officers waited 14 minutes before they allowed an EMS crew into the garage after Cameron Lamb was shot by a detective. The 26-year-old man was declared dead at the scene.
Former detective Eric DeValkenaere was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Lamb’s death, but is appealing his case.
Steve Young, a founder of Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project, said the circumstances surrounding the encounter with Johnson should have and could have been handled differently. That included making attempts to make sure other customers were safe before charging in as well as the attention Gragg got in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“It’s just a total disregard for life,” he said.
Gragg is now a detective and Morales is a reserve detective. Both are assigned to the investigations bureau, Carlisle said Friday.
Gragg had previously been accused of injuring a disabled man during a traffic stop in 2015. The man received a $250,000 settlement. That year, he was also one of two off-duty officers working at the time of a bank robbery in downtown Kansas City. The suspect, who had also tried to carjack people, pointed a weapon and the officers shot him, police documents said.