Editor's note: This article has been updated to include missing words from a quote.
Protests are continuing more than a week after a Pettis County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot and killed 25-year-old Hannah Fizer in Sedalia.
“Justice for Hannah” protests were hosted at the Pettis County Courthouse Saturday and Monday evenings along with friends and family hosting a vigil for Hannah Saturday evening at the location where she died.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Fizer allegedly claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot the deputy during the June 13 traffic stop, which was conducted after Fizer was speeding on Thompson Boulevard and ran a traffic light on West Broadway Boulevard. She eventually pulled over into the parking lot of LeMaire’s Cajun Catfish and Seafood House, 3500 W. Broadway Blvd.
Roughly 25 people attended Saturday evening’s protest outside of the Pettis County Courthouse, across the street from the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office. Protesters held signs and marched around the courthouse chanting before meeting on the courthouse steps for participants to speak.
The smaller crowd gave an opportunity for more individuals to speak. A main topic of discussion was the need for Pettis County residents to vote. Event organizer Rachel Whanger told the Democrat on Monday a “major goal” of the protests is to get Sheriff Kevin Bond out of office.
“In Pettis County, our voting percentage is under 23%,” said one participant. “Under 23% of the population actually votes. So for us to vote him (Bond) out we have got to get people to vote...We’ve got to get someone to run against him.”
Participants were particularly upset about the sheriff’s office not having working body and car cameras. Bond said last week the department had cameras a few years ago but experienced technical problems and lacked the funding to replace or fix them. Many speakers spoke about the importance of cameras and the need to end police brutality.
“They are not going to take this serious and they’re not going to take us serious until we make them take us serious,” said one speaker Saturday. “We’ll come out and do this every day. I will be here every day and night, rain, shine. It’s just I’m sick of it, I’m tired of it.
“People sitting at home right now see the protests on Facebook and they’re thinking ‘Oh well let someone else go out and protest. Let someone else take care of it,’” she continued. “We’re done. OK? We’re done letting someone else take care of it. We’re done letting someone else go protest. Now all of us have to come out and show our support and show them that we’re done.”
Sedalia Police officers were present at the protest Saturday and Monday. The officers got out and spoke to the protestors for a while.
“Rachel (Whanger) I just wanted to let you know that we don’t want to be in your way, we’re just going to be over here if you guys need anything,” SPD Cmdr. David Woolery said Saturday. “I know you run good operations. You guys even picked up trash on Thursday, I couldn’t believe it…
“You guys were picking up trash on Thursday and cleaning up after yourselves and everything else…” he said to the crowd. “You guys haven’t been blocking traffic and causing issues and things like that and we appreciate that.”
A candlelight vigil was hosted later Saturday evening where family and friends gathered to honor Hannah at the location where she was killed. Several individuals spoke about Hannah including her father, John Fizer, who said Hannah changed his life twice — when she came into the world and when she left it.
“She had a heart for justice and so now justice needs to have a heart for her,” John said.
John said Hannah was changing things and encouraged people to not hate, saying, “if you start hating, they start winning.”
“She’s already going to get the body cams and dash cams and all the stuff,” John said. “Hannah’s already changing lives and changing things...This is the beginning of something good and something big.”
The protests continued Monday evening where rain showers left many protesters soaked but it did not dampen their spirits. After being soaked in a downpour, protesters marched around the Pettis County Courthouse and in front of the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office demanding justice.
“I think they’ve been really good,” Whanger said of the protests. “I think that there’s been a real good community outcry...
“Knowing that the commissioners have decided to get on the cameras is a major, major improvement, that was a major concern I know for everyone,” she continued. “I think that by our outcry or our noise that has been an improvement already.”
Many attendees at both protests were also upset with the department’s response to the incident, particularly Bond’s letter to the community issued Thursday morning. Whanger said the letter made her feel like Bond “really dropped the ball” and “put a bullseye on our (protesters) backs.”
“I am very disappointed in Bond’s response,” Whanger said. “It doesn’t seem like anyone has been very empathetic towards her story...I just think that the family deserves more empathy from the sheriff’s department than they’re getting.”
Whanger and protesters also expressed frustration with the sheriff’s office's lack of presence at the protests. Bond and deputies were present at the beginning of Thursday night’s protest and listened to protesters but eventually went inside the sheriff’s office.
“I feel that they’ve left all of the supervision up to the police department when this is what they’ve brought on,” Whanger told the Democrat. “I want the community to know that SPD has been amazing. Really good communication from them.”
Whanger said she would not be planning any more protests but that everyone should feel free to keep doing them. There was a lot of discussion during Monday’s protest on further steps to take involving contacting and speaking with area elected officials.
“I think that we should call our governor,” Whanger said. “Just flood the political scene and demand answers, demand transparency. I think that fight should continue.”