Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree announced filing criminal charges against four Wyandotte County law enforcement officers Wednesday.
Three of the charges stemmed from a sheriff officer’s involvement in a December 2019 hit-and-run crash in a Unified Government vehicle, with charges filed against the driver and two officers charged with trying to cover the crash up. The fourth officer was charged with trying to “knowingly hire a person selling sexual relations.”
Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Michael Simmons Jr. was charged with leaving the scene of the December crash. Former Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department Detective Sarah Panjeda and Andrew Carver, a major in the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office, both face two counts of attempting to obstruct the investigation.
Dupree said that prosecutors allege that Simmons was driving on Interstate 70 when the crash occurred. When officials began to investigate how the crash happened and who was driving, Dupree said the other officers “in some way obstructed that investigation.”
All three will appear in court next month.
KCKPD Officer Travis Toms faces a Class A misdemeanor charge of buying sexual relations in a Nov. 16, 2020, incident. Dupree said Toms was in uniform at the time.
While Dupree maintains most law enforcement officers in Wyandotte County are honorable, he said Unified Government officials will not allow behavior that destroys residents trust.
Nikki Richardson, lead organizer for Justice for Wyandotte and advocate for victims of police brutality sees firsthand the effects of police misconduct that destroys trust.
“There are so many people in Wyandotte County who have been victimized by law enforcement with no sign of hope for justice or retribution,” Richardson said. “It brings me pure happiness to see this level of accountability.”
Dupree also announced at the press conference that the Community Integrity Unit is now up and running with a working hotline that Wyandotte County community members can report police misconduct: 913-573-8100. Complaints will then be investigated by investigators in the District Attorney’s Office.
Members of Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MORE2), an organization focused on racial equity have rallied for more than a year to see this type of unit in Kansas City, Kansas.
“After years of accusations of deep impropriety, corruption, and criminal activity by law enforcement officers within the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department, the community will see a solution,” said Lora McDonald, executive director of MORE2 in a statement.
"Our hope is that the community sees that regardless of who you are or what position you hold or what title you hold, that no one is above the law," Dupree said at the press conference. "And all of us should be held accountable for the actions we take."