District attorney says deputy shooting of Topeka man ‘lawful’

Local News

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Friday the January shooting death of a Topeka man by Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office deputies was “lawful.”

On Jan. 10, deputies were called to a welfare check off of Highway 24 in north Topeka. Kagay said Joseph W. Howell was intoxicated, armed with a handgun and suicidal. Minutes later, a second call came in saying Howell was threatening to shoot and kill people, including himself.

The Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office found Howell leaving the Kickstart Saloon just after 11 p.m. They pulled him over in the 3000 block of Northwest Highway 24. Kagay said Howell refused to leave his car and showed a handgun. That’s when a 40-minute standoff started and Howell shot his gun twice, according to Kagay.

According to a report, Howell tried to drive off from deputies, driving to the intersection of Northwest Highway 24 and Northwest Stover Road, where deputies eventually stopped him and barricaded his truck. Kagay said law enforcement tried to call Howell on his cell phone, trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender.

Kagay said after several minutes of refusing commands, Howell raised his handgun with a “firing grip” and with the barrel pointed in the direction of law enforcement. That’s when two deputies fired their guns into Howell’s vehicle. Kagay said he then left his truck and fell to the ground. He died on scene.

According to Kansas law, an officer is justified in the use of deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes such deadly force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm to such officer or another, Kagay said.

He said the threat level escalated throughout the night when Howell drove off from officers, then raised a firearm in their direction.

Kagay said based on this, the two deputies were justified in the use of force and won’t face criminal prosecution.

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