A settlement has been reached between the City of Ottawa, Franklin County and the family of an 18-year-old Ottawa man who was shot and killed by law enforcement officers in 2014.
    Chris McHenry, the brother of Joseph Jennings and administrator of his estate, filed a civil suit in 2016 seeking punitive damages, legal fees and other related costs in his brother’s shooting.
    According to the terms of the settlement, the judgment was for $125,000. After paying attorney fees and other costs totaling $63,968, the family will receive $60,731, according to court documents.
    The City of Ottawa issued a statement confirming that a settlement had been reached.
    “The court approves of the wrongful death settlement pertaining to the death of Joseph L. Jennings on Aug. 23, 2014,” District Judge Douglas Witteman wrote in signing off on the settlement April 27 in Franklin County District Court.
    The civil complaint alleged that on the night of Aug. 23, 2014, Jennings called 911 to falsely report a man with a black handgun was standing in the Orscheln parking lot.
Jennings did not inform the dispatcher that he was actually providing a description of himself, according to the suit and accounts at the time.
    Responding officers repeatedly demanded Jennings show both of his hands, and each time he did not comply with their demands and continued to walk sideways with his left hand in his waistband, according to the complaint and the shooting’s investigation.
    The complaint alleges officers acted in a reckless and careless manner in firing 29 rounds at Jennings, “an amount that was certainly excessive under the circumstances.” It also notes several bullets struck a house across the street in an incident that from beginning to end “lasted no more than 17 minutes,” according to the suit filed in district court.
    An investigation of the shooting conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which lasted into early October 2014, ultimately showed Jennings was unarmed but had reached to his waistband, consistent with someone drawing a handgun, when officers opened fire, the KBI report said.
    Ten law enforcement officers that were on the scene were named in the complaint along with the City of Ottawa and Franklin County.
    Only three police officers and two sheriff’s deputies used deadly force, according to the KBI report. Twenty-nine shell casings, two bean bags, three bean bag shells and one Tazer cartridge were recovered by the KBI, according to the agency’s report. Officers used split-second judgment to determine deadly force was necessary to protect themselves and members of the public, the KBI report said.
    The KBI report found the officers’ actions were lawful and justified in using deadly force against Jennings, who they thought had a handgun at the time of the incident, according to documents released Oct. 14, 2014, by the Franklin County Attorney’s Office at a press conference. No criminal charges were filed against law enforcement members present at the shooting, and they were returned to active duty, according to Herald archives.
    “The fact Mr. Jennings moved quickly and aggressively, it could not be misinterpreted based on information officers had going into it. Based on all the facts and information and what [Jennings] chose to do, from our standpoint, the officers were justified,” Stephen Hunting, county attorney, said at the press conference in clearing the officers of any wrongdoing.
    The civil complaint, filed by the Kansas City, Kansas, man’s Overland Park attorney Robert Bjerg, alleges some officers at the scene knew of 18-year-old Jennings’ history with mental illness, and three of the officers assisted in taking Jennings to Ransom Memorial Health hospital, 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, the night before the shooting when he attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on prescription medications, according to the complaint.
    According to Bjerg, the City of Ottawa and Franklin County will each pay half of the $125,000 judgement. It was unclear whether the city and county’s insurance company will pay the settlement. `