Deputy pleads guilty in shooting
A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy has pleaded guilty to a felony charge for shooting a woman in the back after trying to arrest her in August 2019.
Lauren Michael, 30, pleaded guilty Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court to a felony first-degree assault charge stemming from an incident in the Westport area of Kansas City. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dropped an armed criminal action charge, said they won’t seek more than a six-year sentence and would recommend a six-year suspended sentence with three years probation and 120 days shock incarceration. Michael is scheduled to be sentenced March 25, and she also faces a civil suit from the shooting.
According to court documents, Michael and several other deputies had been on normal patrol duty in Westport late in the evening of Aug. 8, 2019 when two of them saw two people on a Bird scooter going on the northbound lanes of Main Street near 37th Street. One deputy ordered them to stop, and when the Bird passengers ignored him, he drove ahead of them and pulled in front of them in a parking lot, causing the scooter to hit the side of the patrol vehicle.
The deputy took the male driver into custody and then tried to detain the 25-year-old female passenger, later identified as Brittany Simek, but Simek yelled “No, (expletive) you!” and ran away. The deputy briefly chased on foot but relayed on radio the only charge he had was failure to obey a lawful order, a misdemeanor. The sergeant told dispatch to return to normal radio traffic.
According to court documents, Deputy Michael continued to search the area and found Simek sitting on the steps in front of a house, though she did not inform dispatch she had located her. Dash camera video showed Simek stood up and walked toward Michael, and then both were out of view until Michael is seeing trying to detain the woman, pulling her by her hair and spilling the woman's drink. The video then showed Simek’s legs twitch and she suddenly gets up and runs away. Seconds later, smoke gets blown into camera view, presumably from Michael firing her gun. Michael told dispatch shots were fired, she had been tased and the woman was running south holding her butt cheek.
Michael told investigators she was aware Simek was the scooter passenger and had only been wanted for fleeing. She said Simek had resisted arrest and threw a drink at her, and after Simek continued to resist while on the ground she tased her in the stomach. Michael said Simek then gained control of the Taser and used it on the deputy's leg. The deputy, fearing Simek would try to take her gun, drew it and fired three or four shots at Simek, who she said was above her.
Simek, who was found at a nearby apartment complex, said Deputy Michael got out her car with her Taser drawn and told her to get on the ground. Simek said, “For what?” and Michael didn't tell her but tried to tackle her to the ground, eventually tasing her in the stomach. She said she tried to push the Taser away, then got up and ran away, at which point she was shot in the back. Simek said she had no intention of taking the Taser away or hurting the deputy.
According to court documents, investigators found five spent .40 caliber cartridge cases from Michael's gun and that both Taser cartridges had been deployed. However, they had been deployed three seconds apart, making it unlikely Simek fought for the Taser and then tased the deputy. Investigators also noted a bullet hole on the driver's side door and bullet damage down the street in the direction Simek had fled. Investigators found no indication Simek had a weapon on her. She was hospitalized with wounds to her back and buttocks.
Simek filed a civil suit against Michael in circuit court in November 2019, seeking damages for her trauma since the shooting. The case is scheduled to go to trial in October.
Michael had previously been in a shooting in May 2017 while working off duty at the Wal-Mart in Raytown. She fatally shot a shoplifting suspect, whom she recognized as a man with felony warrants, who had grabbed her Taser and tased her in the face. Michael ultimately received two valor awards from that incident, but also faces a wrongful death lawsuit from it, as well, and that case is scheduled for trial in July.
According to court documents, after the Westport incident Michael told her sergeant that she was “not as comfortable with this one as the last one.”