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Suspect in Kansas City firefighters’ deaths wins legal award

A man who spent nearly 22 years in prison after six Kansas City firefighters died in an explosion in 1988 has been awarded more than $344,000 in legal fees from a lawsuit he filed against the federal government.

Bryan Sheppard sued the U.S. Justice Department in 2017, seeking records from a federal investigation into the Nov. 29, 1988, explosion at a construction site in south Kansas City, The Kansas City Star reported.

Sheppard, one of five people convicted after the explosion, was 17 when the firefighters died. He was released from prison in 2017 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it violated the Constitution to impose mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles.

Sheppard and the other four defendants have always maintained they were innocent.

He filed a Freedom on Information request for records from a 2011 U.S. Justice Department review of the explosion, which was prompted by an investigation in The Star. The federal investigation found no evidence the defendants were innocent but suggested others might have been involved.

U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey issued earlier rulings that the Justice Department improperly withheld documents requested by Sheppard.

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