Crime & Courts

Kansas undersheriff who shot a man with a beanbag round charged with manslaughter

Body cam shows deadly shooting by Kansas undersheriff (graphic content)

WARNING, VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT: An attorney representing the Barber County Sheriff’s Office released the full body-cam video of the fatal police shooting of Steven Myers on Oct. 6, 2017.
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WARNING, VERY GRAPHIC CONTENT: An attorney representing the Barber County Sheriff’s Office released the full body-cam video of the fatal police shooting of Steven Myers on Oct. 6, 2017.

A Kansas undersheriff who shot a man at close-range with a beanbag round 11 months ago has been arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, officials said.

Barber County Undersheriff Virgil “Dusty” Brewer was arrested Wednesday morning at the county courthouse in Medicine Lodge, Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said in a release. He was booked into the county jail on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the fatal shooting of Steven P. Myers, 42, of Sun City.

Myers was killed when Brewer fired a so-called “less lethal” beanbag round at close range into Myers’ chest on Oct. 6, 2017. A beanbag round is a small fabric pillow filled with lead pellets typically fired from a 12-gauge shotgun.

Brewer, 60, was charged Wednesday in Barber County District Court with involuntary manslaughter, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a release. His bond was set at $15,000 and his first appearance is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.

A condition of his bond forbids Brewer from engaging in law enforcement activity, Schmidt said.

Barber County Sheriff Lonnie Small did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He is listed on the state’s witness list.

A federal judge in June allowed a wrongful death lawsuit to continue against Brewer, The Eagle previously reported. The judge dismissed Small as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, but ruled that the sheriff could be sued in state court.

“I’m a jumble of emotions,” Kristina Myers said in a release. “Nothing will ever bring my husband back, but now at least we’re a step closer to getting justice for his death. I’m not really surprised at today’s charges. It was really the only possible response, given the body camera video recordings.”

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT: The coroner, after arriving in the back yard where Myers was shot, voices surprise that the beanbag round did so much damage and says it must have been fired from up close.

Michael Kuckelman of law firm Kuckelman Torline Kirkland and the lead attorney representing the Myers family said in a release that video of the shooting impacted the criminal charges.

“Without the law enforcement body cameras recording video and audio,” Kuckelman said, “it might not have been possible to bring criminal or even civil charges against Brewer. It’s as simple as that. This shooting was unjustified, and the body cameras show why.”

The sheriff’s office acted “recklessly and callously, and they tried to cover up what happened,” the release said.

Recordings show Brewer firing the beanbag round from a shotgun from less than 10 feet into Myers’ chest, The Eagle previously reported. The beanbag shot was too close and hit the wrong spot if it wasn’t intended to be fatal, according to 2009 guidelines from the Police Assessment Resource Center in Los Angeles.

Police were called at around 6:30 p.m. Oct. 6 after Myers was reportedly threatening people with a gun outside a bar on Main Street of Sun City, a south-central Kansas town of 53, the KBI previously said. Myers had already left when deputies arrived, but they found him at a shed at 201 W. Main.

According to audio released in December, Myers was drunk and had been thrown out of Buster’s bar.

The KBI news release from the day after the shooting said Myers “did not comply with all verbal commands given by deputies” before he was shot with a beanbag round. But Kuckelman said in the lawsuit that Myers was unarmed and obeying commands to come out of the shed when he was shot.

Officers shouted conflicting commands of “put your hands up now” and “get on the ground,” according to body camera video. There’s a bang, and someone yells “ow.”

Body camera video does not show a clear view of the shooting, but it does show Myers collapsing as officers continue their commands of “get on the ground” and “all the way down.”

Brewer was the only law enforcement officer at the scene not wearing a body camera, The Eagle previously reported. Brewer testified that he left his body camera on the sun visor in his car.

About 24 seconds after the shooting, a deputy yells for someone to call EMS. Another deputy starts handcuffing Myers, video shows.

When a deputy rolls Myers onto his back, video shows Myers’ chest soaked in blood. Deputies later say they can’t find a pulse.

After the coroner arrives, he voices surprise that the beanbag round did so much damage and said it must have been fired from close range, The Eagle previously reported. Small is heard telling officers not to tell the coroner everything, that KBI agents who will investigate the shooting are on their way.

“That’s from a beanbag? Holy (expletive),” the coroner says in the video.

Kristina Myers, widow of Steven Myers, who was shot by a Barber County undersheriff, and her attorney Michael Kuckelman, are fighting to obtain all body- and dash cam videos of the shooting. The hearing is now set for Dec. 1, 2017.

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