What are the collateral consequences of a highly-publicized shooting? For the young woman cleared of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of off-duty Kansas City firefighter Anthony Santi, the ramifications have been severe. And the tough luck the young lady has faced in the weeks since the fatal shooting is unfortunate.

The Star has not named the woman. She was not charged with a crime, nor did she ask to be put in a situation where she had to use deadly force to stop Santi, a 41-year-old off-duty firefighter, from choking to death her boyfriend, 23-year-old Ja’Von Taylor. The woman says Taylor was nearly losing consciousness when she fired a single shot into Santi’s back.

Because of her arrest, the woman lost her job a day after the shooting, she told us during a recent visit at a south Kansas City church. After the incident, Independence police towed the woman’s vehicle, which remains impounded at a private tow lot in Independence where, because of issues with the title, she has been unable to retrieve it. To make matters worse, the young woman is in danger of falling behind on rent, too, she said. How is that remotely fair? It isn’t.

The woman is 21 with two small children and is also pregnant, she said. Not only did she lose her job in home health care, but she has been unable to secure employment after her arrest in connection with the Oct. 6 shooting, she said. How much should she suffer?

The woman’s crisis highlights a broader issue: how the criminal justice system penalizes the poor, even when they are yet to be tried — or as in this case, have been affirmatively cleared of legal wrongdoing.

Even a single arrest with no conviction for something as simple as disorderly conduct can depress job offers, according to an article co-authored by University of Minnesota sociology and law professor Christopher Uggen and others in the American Society of Criminology on the effects of low-level arrests on employment. As we see in this case, the woman’s arrest raises red flags for prospective employers. It is no wonder she has been denied job opportunities since the incident.

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“Criminal records can haunt the accused, as well as the convicted,” Uggen and others wrote.

Non-conviction records can create lifelong barriers in many areas of life, including finding a decent job or securing adequate housing, scholars say. Missouri is among many states that require burdensome and often costly court procedures to expunge or seal non-convictions, according to a national survey from the Collateral Consequences Resource Center. That needs to change.

We have had serious reservations about Missouri’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but prosecutors judged the woman’s actions were squarely within the letter and spirit of the statute. The death of a dedicated firefighter, EMT and father is tragic, but she had the legal right to shoot Santi, who Jackson County prosecutors said gripped a “helpless” Taylor in a chokehold until he “turned purple.”

Afraid Taylor would be killed, the woman begged Santi to stop choking her boyfriend, but he refused.

Video evidence from the convenience store and witness statements corroborate the woman’s version of the deadly incident, prosecutors confirmed. Independence police were unable to release video footage because of a pending federal case against Taylor, a convicted felon. He faces federal charges for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Once gainfully employed with reliable transportation and a stable place to live, the sudden challenges facing the young mother are many, including lost wages, single motherhood, loss of transportation and a lack of employment prospects. That is an un-American way to treat someone who used her legal right to preserve a life.

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