Officers cleared in DeKalb County shooting

(St. Joseph News Press) – MAYSVILLE, Mo. — Charges will not be filed in the November shooting of a DeKalb County man after a prosecutor completed his review of a Missouri State Highway Patrol investigation into the incident.

Prosecutor Eric Tate said Monday no charges will be filed against any of the four officers in the Nov. 29 shooting death of 53-year-old Lionel Kerns of Stewartsville, Missouri.

Authorities released new details of the shooting Monday.

“It happened incredibly fast,” Tate said.

On the day in question, two Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers and two DeKalb County deputies were responding to reports of an armed domestic disturbance. Kerns’ wife called DeKalb County 911 saying her husband was armed and wanting to shoot somebody or be shot by officers.

After listening to the tapes, reading the investigation and talking at length with his deputies, DeKalb County Sheriff Wes Raines told the News-Press he personally believed this was a case of “death by cop.”

“That’s what it looks like, suicide by cop,” Raines said. “That’s exactly what it looks like.”

The investigation by the Highway Patrol’s Drug and Crime Control Unit of Troop H didn’t draw any conclusions but it did reveal the facts, Tate said.

Kerns had a 22-cal. long rifle, which held 18 bullets and still had 17 after the shooting, Tate said.

The wife mumbled and cried a lot while talking to a 911 communicator. She did say she hadn’t been harmed by her husband.

Kerns barricaded himself and his wife in one of the trailers, and she was crying hysterically, Tate said.

By five seconds after 10:36 a.m. Nov. 29, the four officers were arriving on the scene.

At 34 seconds after 10:36 a.m., a trooper shouted at Kerns to “drop the gun, drop the gun, drop it, drop the gun.”

The prosecutor said Kerns was standing in the open aiming his rifle at officers, but he didn’t know who fired first.

Shots were fired. The report said a total of nine shots were fired: one by Kerns, five by Highway Patrol officer Jonathon Lynch and three by a DeKalb County reserve deputy identified as Kyle Schmitz.

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The last shot appears to have been fired at 40 seconds after 10:36 a.m.

From the eight shots fired by law enforcement, Kerns was shot in the thigh, twice in the arm and once in the right scalp, Tate said.

Details about the shot in the right scalp, fired by Schmitz, proved it was the fatal shot.

An autopsy report from Frontier Forensics Midwest revealed Kerns had a blood alcohol level of .126. The doctor’s summary stated “The decedent expires as a consequence of multiple gunshot injuries.

“The injury isn’t survivable and destroys the right side of pons and medulla, causing immediate loss of voluntary function and immediate death,” the doctor stated.

Schmitz is a part-time deputy who was off duty at the time. He responded to a radio dispatch from the other deputy because he was near the scene and could be there to assist, Raines said.

Tate said the Highway Patrol investigation was thorough, and he found no cause to file any charges against any officer involved in the shooting.