Kansas City police shot Leonna Hale last Friday. Was she unarmed or holding a gun? (Update)

There was another shooting last week that has garnered a lot of attention. On Friday night police in Kansas City shot a woman named Leonna Hale. The Missouri State Highway Patrol, who were not involved in the shooting, were called in to investigate and tweeted out this description of the incident.


Initial news reports basically echoed those claims, but then the story took a turn. A witness told the Kansas City Star that Hale was unarmed and had her hands up before she was shot.

Shédanja, who declined to provide her last name, said the woman was trying to run from officers when they fired at her.

The woman exited the car with her hands up, Shédanja said. Officers told the woman to get on the ground, but the woman told them she was pregnant, Shédanja said, and couldn’t get down on the ground.

Police asked her to get down multiple times. The woman then told police there was a gun in the vehicle. The woman started backing toward a fence in the parking lot. Several officers approached her and had their weapons drawn, Shédanja said.

“She did not pull out a weapon on them,” she said. “She did not even have a stick in her hand.”


And that’s the story that began to spread: Unarmed pregnant woman shot by police.

There was also a video shot by a bystander who witnessed the shooting and filmed Hale being handcuffed on the ground after she was shot. The woman who shot this may be Shédanja, the witness who spoke to the KC Star but I’m not certain of that.

The video became part of the story as well:

Finally, in response to the uproar that was building both locally and online, the prosecutor’s office released a still image yesterday which was taken from police bodycam footage. The image (above) seems to show Hale holding a gun in her right hand. That’s certainly what it looks like to me but I’ve already seen people online claiming it’s a phone not a gun. But prosecutors clearly don’t think that’s the case. They charged Hale with several firearms related charges.


Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesday charged Leonna M. Hale, of Kansas City, Kansas, with unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon and resisting a lawful detention…

Video surveillance from body cameras showed Hale being told to drop the firearm and pointing it at the officers before the officers fired three shots.

One officer told investigators she feared that Hale was going to shoot her and she discharged her firearm one time. A second officer also told investigators that he believed Hale had a firearm pointed at him.

A local reporter showed the image to some protesters who couldn’t immediately explain it.

However, there’s one more twist in this case. Today a Twitter user named T. Greg Doucette is pointing to an unusual feature of the photo released by prosecutors and claiming it has obviously been photoshopped.

Doucette wrote in another tweet, “for it to be an artifact, it’s a bit weird that *only the ankle* is missing but the shoe is fine. Artifacting on the pant leg is normal, the arm/fence is normal, the missing ankle is not.” Here’s the image again so you can see what he’s talking about.


The image is a screen grab from bodycam footage. My guess is when the full footage is released we’ll see this wasn’t photoshopped. But until then people are determined to claim the police and prosecutors are lying. Already, the mayor’s office is clarifying that this is a real image from the bodycam footage.

A photo released by the Jackson County prosecutor in relation to a recent shooting has been confirmed by Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office.

The still photo is not a clear photo, as it is a single frame in a video and is not a high-quality shot, according to the mayor’s office. A spokesperson also said the mayor has watched the body camera video.

The whole way this has developed is reminiscent of several previous incidents in which activists became involved based on faulty information. The slogan “Hands up, don’t shoot” originated from false information about the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. More recently, after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin there were many reports claiming he was unarmed as well. Blake’s own attorney made that claim. Eventually, Blake admitted in an interview that he had fought with police and had a knife in his hand before the shooting.

Prosecutors need to release the bodycam footage because until they do, people are going to keep finding reasons to prefer the story in which police shot an unarmed pregnant woman.


Update: Another element of this story falls apart.

The 26-year-old woman shot and seriously injured by Kansas City police on Friday is not pregnant, according to a local faith leader who said he is working with her family…

“She is not, in fact, pregnant,” Rev. Timothy Hayes, pastor of the 24-hour Faith Training Center in Kansas City, said Thursday.

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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024