Both the Mayor of Sedalia and the Sheriff of Pettis County issued open letters this week concerning the death of 25-year-old Sedalian Hannah Renee Fizer, who died at the hands of a Pettis County deputy Saturday night during a traffic stop.

On Thursday, Mayor John Kehde released the following statement:

Dear Community,

In light of the recent calls for police reforms nationally and the specific inquiries we have been receiving about what we are doing locally, I thought I would put this letter out to the community. Please let me start off with the City understands the concerns and welcomes the opportunity for this dialog. I assure you we will continue to be
transparent and remain open to ways we can improve.

With that said, as we have read and reviewed the calls for police reforms I have mixed feelings. I am both proud to say we are way ahead in terms of having in place these “reforms”, but equally astonished to learn how far behind other law enforcement agencies are in some of these areas. When I first saw the terrible videos of George
Floyd, I along with our police officers were shocked and appalled. I had to ask like many others, how in the world could this happen.

Then of course with my job as Mayor, I had to reassure myself that our Sedalia Police do not allow these types of practices that led to his death. I was not only assured that we do not, but through this review have found many reasons to be proud of our officers and leadership. Suffice it to say, no one is more outraged at the bad tactics that led to George Floyd’s death than our police officers. Your Sedalia Police Officers have not used neck restraints or “choke holds” for decades, and full well understand their duty to intercede when excessive or inappropriate force is being used.

Another area that is evolving on the national level is the push for reporting and reviews of the use of force. We again are already doing, and have been for quite some time, what is being proposed as the standard nationally for all law enforcement. Anytime any level of force is used by any officer, the incident is reviewed by their supervisor, the commander, and then by the Chief of Police. This is not only to ensure that the use of force was appropriate, but is used to develop training around ensuring that all of our officers are on the same page.

Our police are very professional and constantly work to be prepared for the many different interactions they have with the public to better protect themselves and the public. Key to this is the training in Crisis Intervention, which is all about recognizing the crisis the individual is going through to allow for proper intervention to deescalate the
situation the police were called upon to respond to. We do not believe this is getting enough attention in the national conversation.

We again have been quite successful in training our officers in these techniques, which have proven to save lives. I am proud to say, while they do not get the media headlines (and shouldn’t due to privacy for the victims) our officers have just recently diffused multiple very dangerous situations without injury to themselves or anyone else, including the person threatening harm to others. It is through their training, high moral character, and selflessness to put service above themselves that brought about these heroic outcomes.

Setting this as the standard or expectation for our Police Officers and then providing the necessary training is just an important catalyst that facilitates their success.

Due to the absence of direct video of what happened in the death of Hannah Fizer, we have also received inquiries about our use of body cameras. The City Police Department has required body and vehicle cameras for quite some time. Our Sedalia Police have welcomed this technology and have deployed it quite successfully.

Likewise, the Sedalia Police have enjoyed the budgetary support from our administration and city council to have these along with many other safeguards in place. We cannot speak for the County budgeting process, but in our case, we can say it was not easy to allocate the funding necessary. However, with the forward thinking of our Police, Administration, Mayor, and City Council, we were able to get it done years before others. Merely having them can help find answers when things go wrong, but we go way beyond this use. In all cases of any use of force, the reports along with the recordings from these cameras are used to review first to make sure the officer did not use more force than absolutely necessary, but then is also evaluated and used in training to make sure all our officers employ the best methods. I would also refer you to the Pettis County Sherriff’s office for more information on their procedures and equipment.

I could go on providing examples of equipment, training, policies, and procedures our Sedalia City Police Force engages in, aimed at preventing loss of life. However, we know that does not provide the answers we all understandably seek regarding Hannah. Therefore I will leave you with this thought, we grieve with you, including yes our police officers. This happened in our community to one of our own. With that said, we are all waiting for the facts to come out of what happened to cause this tragedy. It is our understanding that the investigation is in the hands of the State Highway Patrol. We like you, hope they can provide some answers
soon.

Sincerely,
Mayor John Kehde
City of Sedalia


 

And on Wednesday, Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond released the following statement:

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Pettis County:

I need your help. We are in the midst of dealing with a tragic event in the death of Hannah Fizer, and my prayers go out to her family and friends. But the onslaught of shock, commercial media coverage, social media outcry, and raw emotion is beginning to devolve into a dangerous situation for our community.

Last night, the criminal element among us ramped up its efforts to begin its own version of “Social Justice.” One of my deputies, not involved whatsoever with the shooting or its investigation, has been singled out and targeted for harassment, stalking, and has been threatened with serious assault. His name and photograph is posted on social media, and calls for his child to be harmed are rampant. There are lies circulating about both him and Hannah with this. The truth does not matter to the instigators, and unsuspecting people are being sucked into the hatred. We are beginning to see people who are willing to resort to criminal behavior and taking advantage of this situation to turn it into social chaos.

It does not stop there. Deputies addresses are being circulated, there are calls for both me and the Chief of Police to resign or be thrown out of office, and last night I received an extortion email to release my name and home address on social media if I do not comply with unreasonable demands. Your Pettis County Prosecutor is also receiving pressure and threats from fringe elements to take actions based on people’s feelings, not the truth. Careless activities have been occurring around the Pettis County Courthouse complex and in the downtown Sedalia area. Do you want this to continue and cause irrevocable harm to our community?

Are you willing to allow Pettis County to become the test project for some Social Justice experiment for Rural America? I certainly hope not. Our nation is facing difficult times, and we are facing a difficult issue right here in our hometown. But it is important to remember that we must have faith in the American Way, and not allow this type of Social In-Justice to establish a stronghold here.

I am the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of this County. You have vested in me the authority to “quell and suppress assaults and batteries, riots, routs, affrays, and insurrections…” I will carry this out to the best of my ability and continue to do what I believe is in the best interest of our community. I will not tolerate criminal behavior nor allow your properties to be damaged.

I need every person’s help in doing this. I need you to think rationally and not just with emotion. We are all hurting and we need time to heal. I need you to stand with me and not tolerate unreasonable behavior. I need you to step up to support and defend the rule of law. And most of all, I need for us to communicate with each other and live together peaceably. We are the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave. Let’s keep it that way.

My door has and remains open to every one of you. Please do not allow a small but aggressive element that has reared its ugly head to take that from you.

- Sheriff Kevin C. Bond


 

Protesters holding signs gathered on the east side of the Pettis County Courthouse at 5 p.m. Thursday, across from the Pettis County Sheriffs Office, to express their views.

Fizer's funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Rea Funeral Chapel with burial planned for Monday at Sunset Cemetery in Marshall. Fizer was a 2014 graduate of Marshall High School.