How bad was the fire at KCPD evidence warehouse?

Marc LaVoie
September 18, 2019 - 4:51 am
Flames showing with shelves full of boxes in the background

AndreyPopov - iStock - Getty Images Plus

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Kansas City, MO - A newly released report from the Kansas City Police Department reveals more information about an evidence storage fire in August of last year.

Defense attorney Dan Ross has had concerns for months. He expected KCPD or the prosecutor’s office to have an inventory of affected cases back in March, seven months after the fire. He still doesn’t know how many of his cases have damaged evidence.

"It's been a very slow process,” Ross said. "I've got lots of questions. If they've got answers, again, transparency and full disclosure.”

The new police report said several racks had fire damage and water damage and it mentions items floating through several inches of water from the sprinkler system.

Some bins were so burned they were unreadable by officers. The cause remains undetermined. It’s noted that the other damage to the entrances were caused by firefighters.

The report lists a possible cause as a cellphone battery issue or chemical reaction.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office said they aren’t aware of any inventory list in their office. A KCPD spokesperson said they're still trying to figure out which cases were not affected, and they may never know what all was lost in the fire.

"That should be the priority of the prosecutor and the police department to determine that and get it in the hands of the defense attorney for the public good,” Ross said.

He's concerned people are waiting in jail for trials or taking pleas because they aren’t requesting their evidence and therefore, don't know evidence in their case is destroyed. Right now, it’s being provided as cases come up or requests are made.

"The system breaks down if that is not disclosed promptly,” Ross said.

Both police and the prosecutor's office say they haven't had any dismissals as a result of the fire.

“I think everybody considers it a big deal,” Ross said. “I'd just like everybody to get to the bottom of it."

Ross said in his cases that were affected, there were copies of evidence or the prosecutor's office used similar evidence as props in a trial.

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