Prosecutors in Missouri have dropped all charges against a Kansas City police officer who was charged in the nonfatal shooting of an unarmed man, arguing the case was not strong enough to secure a conviction.
In February, a state grand jury determined there was probable cause to indict Jacob Ramsey, 31, on charges of first-degree assault and armed criminal action in the June 24 shooting of 37-year-old Anthony Contreras.
"Like all prosecutors, we have a duty to be convinced that evidence supports a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a news release Friday night. "Our subsequent investigation convinced us that burden could not be met."
The dismissal comes amid mounting scrutiny of police shootings after a police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder after the April 4 shooting of an unarmed man, Walter L. Scott. Widespread protests erupted across the nation in November after a grand jury decided not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., officer who fatally shot another unarmed man, Michael Brown.
According to prosecutors, the Missouri shooting began when officers spotted Contreras, who was identified as a suspect in a string of 31 thefts from tractor-trailers, on the porch of his home. Before trying to take Contreras into custody, officers had been briefed that he was "known to flee and was considered dangerous."
An officer said he shouted "Anthony, stop!" but Contreras entered the home and left through the back door. Ramsey, who was positioned at the back of the home, said he ordered Contreras to show his hands, then fired a single shot at Contreras after he dropped his right hand to his side. Ramsey said he believed Contreras was reaching for a gun.
Contreras, who was found to be unarmed, was struck on the left side of his face, causing serious injury to his jaw, teeth and tongue. He has maintained he did not see Ramsey or hear his commands.
In a letter to Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte, Baker said that Contreras, the main witness for the state, made inaccurate statements to the grand jury and would not have been a credible witness at trial. She added that a witness told police three days before the shooting and immediately afterward that Contreras had said he would "rather shoot it out with police or make them think he had a weapon and be shot than return to jail."
Ramsey, who had been on unpaid leave since he was indicted, is expected to resume full duty with the Kansas City police department.
"My client is very pleased and very thankful and relieved for the dismissal of all charges against him," John P. O'Connor, an attorney for Ramsey, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Contreras' attorney, Ross Charles Nigro Jr., could not be reached for comment.