Family members of a teen who was shot at least 16 times by police in Ottawa, Kansas said this week that the 18-year-old was unarmed and suicidal when he was gunned down.
Brandy Smith told KCTV that police were there when her nephew, 18-year-old Joseph Jennings, had tried to kill himself with pills last week.
“Tonight is the night goodbye everyone!!!!! It was truly a good ride! And I’m sorry for who I might of hurted (sic) and people that I may of offended, But I love all my family and I hope you don’t hold this against me,” he reportedly wrote on Facebook before trying to overdose.
About 10 minutes later, Jennings swallowed 60 pills. And Smith said two officers took him to Ransom Memorial Hospital.
Jennings survived, and was released from the hospital two days later. But only three hours after that, he was on a “suicide mission” when he walked to Orscheln Farm and Home, according to his aunt.
Smith recalled that around six officers responded, and two of them had helped save Jennings’ life by taking him to the hospital after his overdose just days before.
“It was like six — six officers, and one cop yelled, ‘Bag him!’ And they bagged him,” she said. “And he kind of puffed up a little bit, and then they bagged him two more times, and then like 16 shots rang out, and they shot him. And he fell to the ground.”
Jennings was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Smith said that she was only feet away from Jennings and did not see a weapon.
“And I told them, if he has a gun, it’s a BB gun,” she insisted. “But we don’t know that… He knew that if he acted like he had a gun that they would shoot him, and I told them that.”
“I told them, ‘That’s Joseph Jennings, he’s suicidal, he’s upset, don’t shoot him,'” Smith added. “And that’s what I don’t understand is, why did it take them shooting him 16 times at least for them to bring him down? Why didn’t they bag him, knock him down, and then go and take care of whatever they needed to take care of?”
Smith said that her husband tried to help, but police threatened to shoot him too.
“My husband was going to tackle him. He was within arms reach. They said to get back or they were going to shoot him,” she explained.
Following standard procedures for officer-involved shootings, Ottawa police turned the case over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). Officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.
Citing the KBI investigation, a spokesperson for the department declined to comment on whether or not Jennings was armed.
Watch the video below from KCTV, broadcast Aug. 24, 2014.