Donnie Sanders’ family sues for $10M after his fatal shooting by a Kansas City police officer

Officer Blayne Newton shot Sanders three times during a nighttime traffic stop in March 2020

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The family of an unarmed Black man fatally shot by a Kansas City police officer in 2020 is suing the Board of Police Commissioners and the officer behind the shooting, seeking at least $10 million in damages and costs.

Relatives of the late Donnie Sanders filed the federal lawsuit Thursday, accusing Blayne Newton, the officer, of using excessive force during the March 12, 2020 shooting, the Kansas City Star reported.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the department, does not adequately train and discipline its police officers in the use of deadly force, per the outlet.

According to the Star, civil rights advocates in Kansas City have cited the death of Sanders, 47, among multiple examples of Black residents dying at the hands of the department’s predominantly white police force.

Newton shot five times at Sanders, striking him thrice, during an attempted nighttime traffic stop, per the outlet. Reports say the officer was alone on patrol when he began following Sanders’ car, eventually chasing Sanders on foot after he parked at the end of an alleyway and attempted to flee.

Dash cam footage reviewed by the Star does not capture visuals of the two men as the chase ensued, although the microphone reportedly picks up Newton demanding that Sanders stop and show his hands, after which, gunshots are audible.

Sanders was reportedly hit in the abdomen, right hip, and elbow, and died of the wounds the following morning at a hospital, per the Star.

The outlet reports that while Newton told investigators that he thought he saw Sanders holding a gun, detectives found no weapons on him, instead only finding a cellphone in the his jacket pocket.

Citing investigations from the department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol examining Sanders’ killing, prosecutors reportedly declined to press charges against Newton, the Star reported. 

Protesters have plastered an Abraham Lincoln statue with signs demanding information about the deadly police shooting of Donnie Sanders by a white police officer and the resignation of the police chief, as seen on Oct. 13, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. The family of a Sanders is suing the officer and the Board of Police Commissioners for at least $10 million. (AP Photo/Heather Hollingsworth, File)

Jean Peters Baker, a prosecutor in Jackson County, said Newton’s claim of being in fear of his safety was backed up by two witness reports, who claim that Sanders approached him with his arm extended while Newton was walking backward yelling commands.

Following Sanders’ death, as well as the killing of George Floyd and others by police in the ensuing months, Kansas City residents led protests calling for racial justice and reform within the department, local NPR-affiliate KCUR reported.

Later that year, after Newton returned to work, another use-of-force review was conducted on him after he knelt on a pregnant Black woman’s back during an arrest in October 2020, per the Star.

The Kansas City department in 2020 obtained body cameras and stopped internally investigating fatal shootings by its officers, announcing that it would begin enlisting the Missouri Highway Patrol in such cases, the Star reported.

The department said it does not comment on pending litigation when contacted by the Star.

Sanders’ sister, Reshonda, told the Star on Friday: “We still believe this officer should face charges,” adding, ”we deserve justice and so does Donnie.” 

“He was not doing nothing wrong, he lost his life driving,” she said.

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