Video: Off-duty cop fatally shoots firefighter during brawl
Video captures the fatal Dec. 1 shooting of an off-duty Kansas City firefighter who was resisting arrest
By Donna Mcguire
The Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As he lay bleeding on a downtown Kansas City street, newlywed Anthony Bruno mouthed "Don't let me die" to a bystander who had rolled him on his back to check two gunshot wounds.
On the pavement nearby, Police Officer Donald Hubbard felt himself drifting in and out of consciousness. Blood dripped from his broken and battered face. He tried to get up but fell back.
The bystander, who happened to be a critical care nurse in a hospital trauma unit, could not find Bruno's pulse. She asked Hubbard to apply pressure to Bruno's wounds while she began chest compressions. Hubbard crawled to her as sirens sounded in the distance, according to documents released Tuesday by police.
Soon an arriving police officer asked what direction the gunman had fled.
Hubbard looked up.
"I shot him," he said.
Multiple witnesses described elements of that scene to investigators trying to piece together what led to an off-duty Kansas City police officer fatally shooting an off-duty Kansas City firefighter who had been celebrating his November wedding in the early hours of Dec. 1.
Detectives interviewed witnesses, studied two cellphone videos shot by bystanders and obtained surveillance videos from area businesses. They also took photos of a taxicab driver allegedly assaulted by Bruno moments before Hubbard's attempted arrest of Bruno devolved into a fatal struggle.
As they do in all fatal shootings involving police, Jackson County prosecutors presented the investigators' report to a Jackson County grand jury. The jurors voted "no true bill" on Feb. 14, ending the case without charges.
That also closed the case and allowed media to request copies of the case file, which included the videos.
The Star is posting one of those videos online, showing the final confrontation between Bruno and Hubbard, because it was key evidence considered by the grand jury. Some profanities from onlookers were edited out, as were scenes after the shooting showing Bruno. Viewer discretion is advised, as the video contains graphic scenes, including intense fighting and sounds of gunshots.
Over and over in the inch-thick case file, witnesses stories largely match one another.
Anthony Bruno, 26, and Stephanie Bruno, 29, were dressed in wedding attire as they celebrated their Nov. 16 nuptials. About 2 a.m. on Dec. 1, they had taken a cab from a restaurant to the Kansas City Marriott Downtown with Anthony's cousin, who had been drinking heavily at the restaurant and had fallen asleep there.
The Brunos had imbibed as well, but neither was drunk, Stephanie later told police.
They wanted the cabdriver to take Anthony Bruno's cousin home, but an argument began on how much that would cost — the meter kept running as they discussed it — and whether the cabdriver could leave the cousin on the street instead of taking him home.
Stephanie Bruno told police the cabdriver kept increasing the fare, used a derogatory word toward her and threw money back in her face.
"That's when my husband got out of the taxi and began hitting the taxicab driver," Stephanie Bruno told police.
She yelled at her husband to stop, she said. He quit and walked away. She stayed with Anthony's cousin, as three men were approaching the taxi to protect the driver. The three men nearly started another fight, she said.
"The Marriott security and I both tried to keep that from turning into an altercation. The security guard after that basically told me KCPD had been called and to just stay there. So I stayed there."
Hubbard, who was working security for the Marriott while wearing his Police Department uniform, saw the group arguing and saw Anthony Bruno leaving the area. He headed east after him.
They met up on Baltimore Avenue, between 12th and 13th streets. Hubbard said he tried to arrest Bruno, who resisted and tried to run.
"Throughout my entire contact with the suspect, I gave him numerous verbal commands to give me his hands and to stop resisting," Hubbard told detectives later. "In my attempts to place handcuffs on the suspect, he continued to resist and we eventually went to the ground."
At one point, Hubbard put Bruno in a neck restraint and thought Bruno had given up. But then Bruno began resisting again, trying to stand while holding onto Hubbard.
"That's when I noticed two people filming nearby," Hubbard recounted. "I told these individuals that I was by myself and pleaded for them to call for help."
Bruno told Hubbard he shouldn't have hit him, Hubbard said.
"He then somehow flipped me over onto my back and the subject began punching me on the left side of my face and head," Hubbard told detectives. "He was on top of me and I was in an extremely vulnerable position and I was exhausted from the struggle with the suspect.
"I don't know how many times he struck me, but I started to black out and saw lines across my eyes. He continued to strike me and I started to lose consciousness and I believed the suspect was not going to stop hitting me until he killed me.
"I feared for my life and I drew my weapon, fired two shots center mass."
A couple walking nearby included the nurse. They didn't see the start of the confrontation.
"But at the very end, the cop was underneath the civilian and had his head smashed very hard against the cement by the civilian," the nurse later told detectives. "I did not see any other circumstance than to shoot him. I mean he had to do something because he was gonna get a head bleed from the traumatic brain injury."
On the cellphone video released by police, the witnesses can be heard yelling at Bruno to stop hitting the officer.
Two gunshots stopped the action. Bullets hit Bruno in the chest, according to the autopsy. One hit the heart, diaphragm and liver.
The nurse, Hubbard and other officers helped with CPR until a Fire Department medic crew arrived. Bruno was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Hubbard was taken to a hospital as well. His injuries included a broken eye socket, a fractured cheekbone, a cut above his left eye that required two stitches and loss of feeling in the left side of his face.
He has returned to work, police said Tuesday.
Copyright 2014 The Kansas City Star
McClatchy-Tribune News Service