SEDALIA, Mo. – The family of a Missouri woman fatally shot last week by a sheriff’s deputy is demanding answers after authorities confirmed she was unarmed when she was killed.
Hannah Renee Fizer, 25, was killed by a Pettis County deputy, who pulled her over for speeding and running a traffic light around 10 p.m. Saturday in Sedalia, about 90 miles southeast of Kansas City. Officials with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who are investigating the officer-involved shooting, said Fizer initially continued driving before she “finally pulled off the highway into a secluded location.”
“The preliminary investigation revealed the suspect was not compliant,” Missouri State Highway Patrol officials said in a preliminary statement. “The suspect allegedly threatened the deputy by stating she was armed and going to shoot him. The incident escalated, and the deputy discharged his weapon, striking the suspect.”
Deputies rendered first aid to Fizer, but she died at the scene, according to the statement.
Sgt. Bill Lowe, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said Monday that no weapon was found in the search of Fizer’s car, KOMU in Columbia reported.
Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond told the Kansas City Star on Wednesday that the lack of a weapon “does not change (his) outlook” on the situation.
“It’s an additional piece of information that, obviously, the investigators use,” Bond said. “They need to use that to be able to determine whether this was a justifiable use of force.”
No body camera footage exists of the incident. Bond told the newspaper that the sheriff’s office used to have body-worn cameras but that technical issues made the agency cease using them about three years ago.
“Those devices have not been replaced,” the sheriff said.
Fizer’s family, who said she was killed as she drove to her job as assistant manager of a convenience store, disputed the claim that she would have had a gun or threatened anyone with one, particularly a sheriff’s deputy.
“She wouldn’t shoot a frog,” her father, John Fizer, told the Star. “I can’t even imagine, for one second, how she could’ve been a threat to anybody.”
Her boyfriend, James Johnson, told the newspaper that Hannah Fizer was not armed when she left their home for work. Her stepmother, Lori Fizer, said the situation made no sense.
“We need to know exactly how everything went down,” Lori Fizer said. “She weighed a whole 145 pounds and she was by herself.”
Hannah Fizer’s death comes amid a number of high-profile police killings of black men and women that have led to dozens of large-scale protests against police brutality across the U.S., with some of them turning violent.
Unlike the victims in those killings, Fizer was white, as was the deputy who shot her, according to The Associated Press.
Johnson posted a video Tuesday on his Facebook page that showed a small protest being held in Fizer’s name outside the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office.
“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” the protesters could be heard shouting. They also shouted Fizer’s name.
“No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!” they continued.
Johnson eventually climbed back into his car and, talking to his viewers, showed them a handgun. He said Fizer never carried a gun and that he didn’t, either, but that he would start carrying one following his girlfriend’s death.
“I promise you here on out that I have a gun on me,” Johnson said. “They killed her, they’re gonna have to kill me. That’s for sure.”
Johnson’s comments turned dark as he threatened the deputy who shot and killed Fizer.
“If the system doesn’t put this (expletive) behind bars, I’m gonna put him into the ground,” Johnson said. “If I can’t put him into the ground, then that leaves me no choice but to put his (expletive) friends in the ground.
“That’s not a threat, that’s a promise.”
Editor’s note: Johnson’s video is not included in this story because it contains threats to law enforcement officers. Missouri officials said Thursday that they are aware of the footage.
Johnson said the deputy who shot Fizer took everything from him. The couple was together for about seven years, he said.
Johnson, who is of mixed race, urged police officers who claim to be good people to turn their badges in and not be part of the “biggest gang in the world.”
“All you guys do is kill, kill, kill,” he said.
He turned his cellphone around to look into the camera as he pointed out that black people are not the only ones being killed by law enforcement officers.
“Is racism a problem in his country? Absolutely,” Johnson said. “Are black people targeted more? Absolutely. But it’s not only black people that are targeted.
“What it is, is police.”
According to The Washington Post’s police shooting database, at least 5,416 people have been shot and killed by law enforcement officers since the beginning of 2015. A total of 2,476 of those killed were white and 1,298 were black.
Mapping Police Violence reports that in 2019, black people made up 24 percent of those killed despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Lowe told KOMU earlier this week that no new details had emerged to explain how or why Fizer’s traffic stop devolved into a fatal shooting.
Bond told the AP that the unnamed deputy who killed Fizer has been placed on administrative leave. The sheriff said the deputy, who has been with the department since 2007, has no prior use of force complaints against him.
Watch Sheriff Kevin Bond speak to the Kansas City Star below.
On Thursday, Bond released an open letter to residents of Pettis County asking them for help dealing with the aftermath of Fizer’s death.
“The onslaught of shock, commercial media coverage, social media outcry and raw emotion is beginning to devolve into a dangerous situation for our community,” Bond wrote. “Last night, the criminal element among us ramped up its efforts to begin its own version of ‘Social Justice.’”
Bond alleged that a deputy who was not involved in Fizer’s shooting has been singled out for harassment and threats. He said the deputy’s name and photo are being circulated and threats have been made to the man’s child.
“The truth does not matter to the instigators, and unsuspecting people are being sucked into the hatred,” Bond wrote. “We are beginning to see people who are willing to resort to criminal behavior and taking advantage of this situation to turn it into social chaos.”
Bond wrote that there have been demands that he and Sedalia Police Chief Matthew Wirt resign or be thrown out of office. He alleged that he received a threat Wednesday night claiming his photo and home address would be made public if he does not “comply with unreasonable demands.”
“Your Pettis County prosecutor is also receiving pressure and threats from fringe elements to take actions based on people’s feelings, not the truth,” Bond wrote. “Careless activities have been occurring around the Pettis County Courthouse complex and in the downtown Sedalia area. Do you want this to continue and cause irrevocable harm to our community?”
“Are you willing to allow Pettis County to become the test project for some social justice experiment for rural America? I certainly hope not,” the sheriff wrote.
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