Kansas undersheriff who killed man with beanbag wasn’t trained, report says
A Kansas undersheriff who shot and killed a man with a beanbag round had never been trained on how to properly use the weapon and it’s so-called less lethal ammunition, court documents say.
That lack of training led the Barber County undersheriff to intentionally aim at the wrong part of the body when he shot and killed a man with the beanbag, a police expert says in a report prosecutors filed in court. The undersheriff allegedly fired from too close of a range and used an unsafe round - one that delivered more force than a police duty rifle, according to the report.
The undersheriff, Virgil “Dusty” Brewer, 60, was arrested and criminally charged with manslaughter in the death of Steven Myers, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has said.
Prosecutors requested a report from law enforcement expert Steve Ijames, a retired Springfield, Mo., police major who has been an instructor on use of force and less lethal weapons for multiple agencies.
That report, filed in Barber County District Court, states that proper training and using a round that has been proven safe are key to “controlling the potentially deadly risks” associated with beanbag rounds and other less-lethal impact weapons.
But Brewer was neither trained nor used a safe round, the report alleges.
Sheriff Lonnie Small did not respond to requests for comment. He is on the state’s witness list in the criminal case against Brewer.
THE DEADLY SHOOTING
Myers, 42, was killed on Oct. 6, 2017, when Brewer shot him in the chest with a beanbag round at close range. A beanbag round is a small, fabric pillow filled with lead pellets typically fired from a 12-gauge shotgun. The beanbag rounds, along with Tasers and pepper sprays, are used to safey incapacitate suspects who may be dangerous.
Police had been called after Myers was reportedly drunk and threatening people with a gun outside Busters bar on Main Street of Sun City, a south-central Kansas town of 53. Myers had already left when deputies arrived, but they found him in a shed at 201 W. Main.
Officers shouted conflicting commands of “put your hands up now” and “get on the ground,” according to body camera video. There’s a bang, and someone yells “ow.”
Myers was unarmed when he was fatally shot with the beanbag, attorneys for his widow have said in a separate civil lawsuit against Brewer and Small.
LACK OF TRAINING
Brewer’s shotgun had beanbag rounds from two different manufacturers.
One was issued through the Freestone County Sheriff’s Office. Before Brewer joined the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, he was a sheriff’s sergeant in Freestone County, Texas.
The other was from Teague Tactical Supply. The company is based in Teague, a city in Freestone County, which had hoped to supply beanbags to the Sheriff’s Office there.
Teague Tactical Supply did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, Brewer had fired a beanbag round at a cardboard target while working for the Freestone County Sheriff’s Office in Texas, Ijames said, citing a KBI investigative report.
Brewer was never taught the proper distance from which to shoot a beanbag round, Ijames said, citing a KBI investigative report.
“Brewer had not expected the bean bag round that he fired at Myers to penetrate Myers’ body,” the KBI report states.
Additionally, Brewer has testified that he hadn’t read all of the sheriff’s office policies in the 10 months between when he was hired and when he shot Myers.
Brewer told investigators he had always been “taught to shoot center mass because it was the largest target and the best spot to stop the threat,” the KBI report states. That’s the opposite of what is taught when using less-lethal impact rounds, such as beanbags, Ijames said.
Police agencies typically require officers who use beanbag weapons to complete an initial eight-hour training course, which focuses on where to aim when firing a beanbag and the performance characteristics of the round, Ijames said.
Unless officers are intending to use deadly force, beanbags should not be aimed at the target’s chest, head, neck, throat, face or spine, Ijames said, citing International Association of
TESTING THE BEANBAG
When Ijames tested the type of round used by Brewer, it was fired with so much energy that it destroyed his equipment.
The test involved firing the beanbag into a 12pound block of ballistic clay. He reported that five of the standard police beanbag rounds — the
CTS “super sock” — performed as designed. They traveled 280-300 feet per second, and delivered about 120 foot-pounds of energy.
That round has proven to be safe and effective when aimed at the appropriate part of the body, Ijames said.
He also tested 10 rounds believed to be of the same type as the one Brewer fired. All of those rounds traveled 1,2001,500 feet per second.
The first “destroyed the clay block and knocked it off the test table,” Ijames wrote. It was traveling 1,323 feet per second. The beanbag round “disintegrated upon impact with the clay.”
He then tested the next round by firing at a new block of clay that had been covered with a Kevlar bullet-resistant vest. The beanbag penetrated the vest.
Brewer’s round would generate 1,271-1,898 footpounds of energy, Ijames wrote. That’s 10-16 times the energy of the standard police beanbag round. It’s also more than the standard police 9 mm handgun (370 foot-pounds), a .44 Magnum (900 footpounds) and the M4 police duty rifle (1,300 footpounds).
Investigators suspect the round Brewer fired came from Teague Tactical Supply but was manufactured by Concepts in Ammunition, Ijames’ report indicates. Concepts in Ammunition is a Garden City, Mich., company.
“The suspect round in this case appears to have been hand-sewn by the mother of the person who sells them online, and the testing that was documented in a Michigan State Police report involved shooting — and penetrating — plywood at various ranges,” he wrote.
Concepts in Ammunition did not respond to requests for comment.
The company’s website describing its beanbag rounds states that it is intended for crowd control and “overall disbursement.” It’s range is 25-35 feet, and it is not recommended for use closer than 15 feet.
Investigators determined that Brewer shot Myers from 8-10 feet away.
Jason Tidd: 316-268-6593, @Jason_Tidd
Virgil “Dusty” Brewer