KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A former Kansas police detective, who last year sued a sheriff's deputy for running over him in a rural field, has been fatally shot by a police officer in Kansas City after disarming an officer and pointing a gun at another, police said Tuesday.
Lionel Womack was killed during the encounter Monday after police received 911 calls about a man standing in a road pointing at the sky and trying to jump in front of traffic.
“Those officers had no choice — this whole incident took place in 26 seconds," Police Chief Karl Oakman said at a news conference.
When officers arrived, Womack started running toward them in “an aggressive manner," Oakman said, adding that the entire encounter was captured on police body camera and dashcam video.
Womack attempted to get into the passenger side of the police car then ran around the vehicle where he came into contact with an officer. Womack reached toward the back of his pants and the officer — assuming he had a gun — drew his weapon, Oakman said. Womack then got into the driver's seat of the patrol car, and the same officer tried to get him out.
A fight ensued over the officer's weapon, which discharged two shots. Womack successfully disarmed the officer and pointed the weapon at that officer before then pointing it at the other officer, who shot and killed Womack. In the video, one officer can be heard saying to the other, “Man, you just saved my life,” the police chief said.
The two officers received non life-threatening injuries.
“He knows our tactics,” Oakman said. “I think that contributed to his ability to disarm our officer, which made it a very dangerous situation for our officers.”
Womack was hired by the Kansas City, Kansas, police department in 2007, promoted to detective in 2018, and terminated in August 2020 after numerous policy violations and conduct issues, the police chief said.
“We don't know what happened in his life that caused him to spiral like this,” Oakman said.
Lionel Womack came from a law enforcement family. His wife and mother are police officers in Kansas City, Kansas, and his stepfather is a retired police sergeant. Two aunts are city police dispatchers.
His wife, Zee Womack, tearfully told The Associated Press that her husband was killed in the altercation and that at least one of the officers involved knew him. She declined to comment further because she is still employed as a Kansas City police officer, and the investigation is ongoing.
Lionel Womack alleged last year in an excessive force lawsuit that Kiowa County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeremy Rodriguez intentionally drove over him on Aug. 15, 2020, in an incident that was captured on dashcam video. The deputy has denied the allegations and said he’s entitled to qualified immunity.
“The family of Lionel Womack thanks the members of the Kansas City community for your outpouring of support after their devastating loss yesterday,” said Michael Kuckelman, the attorney representing him in that lawsuit. “They are asking for privacy and your prayers, as they grieve.”
Police spokesman Thomas Tomasic said “we were all friends with the guy,” adding that everybody knew him and nobody had a problem with him. He said officers didn't know the 911 calls involved Womack until they arrived at the scene.
He denied the shooting was retribution for the civil lawsuit.
“He was a nice guy. He used to always come to the office and talk to us,” Tomasic said. “It is very weird. It is horrible. We don't like to kill anybody. We obviously don't want to kill somebody you work with for however many years.”
Hegeman reported from Belle Plaine, Kansas.