FBI launches excessive force probe of Independence police - KCTV5

FBI launches excessive force probe of Independence police

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The FBI announced Monday afternoon that it has launched an investigation of the Independence Police Department after a teen was left in a coma following an arrest.

The FBI made the announcement as the Independence Police Department promised its full cooperation while conducting its own separate, internal investigation.

"The FBI Kansas City division has initiated an investigation into the allegations of excessive force by a member of the Independence, MO Police Department in reference to an altercation that occurred Sunday," according to the two-paragraph news release.

Family and friends are questioning the use of force by Independence police after a struggle with an officer sent a 17-year-old to the hospital.

The officer used a stun gun on the teenager who is now in critical condition. Witnesses have said the officer stepped on the teen and dropped him on the ground after he was handcuffed, causing his head to hit the pavement.

Friends say Bryce Masters is in a medically induced coma because of injuries to his brain. They are hoping the teenager pulls through.

"Our department's thoughts and prayers are with Bryce and his family and for his complete recovery," Independence police Maj. Paul Thurman said.

An officer had pulled over Masters because there was an outstanding Kansas City Police Department warrant associated with the vehicle. This occurred just after 3 p.m. Sunday in the area of East Southside Boulevard and Main Street.

The warrant was for a woman.

Police say Masters refused to roll down the vehicle's window, but friends say it was due to a malfunctioning switch. Thurman said the windows were quite dark and officers couldn't see inside the vehicle.

"It appears that the use of the Taser was in policy and calling the ambulance was in policy at this particular time," Thurman said.

The major said Masters exited the vehicle on his own and was not pulled out from the vehicle by the officer.

Independence police have firmly defended the actions of Officer Tim Runnels, saying he used a stun gun on the 17-year-old in accordance with department policy. Runnels has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is routine in cases like this.

Runnels has been with the department for nearly three years.

"During the course of the stop the driver became uncooperative, physically resistitive to exiting the car, and an altercation ensued leading the officer to deploying his Taser," Thurman said.

However, Thurman admitted that as of 4:30 p.m. Monday that investigators have not interviewed Runnels. He said that Runnel's Fraternal Order of Police attorney is coordinating the interview.

Masters, a senior at Truman High School, is the son of Matt Masters, a veteran Kansas City Police Department officer who oversees the department's off-duty officer program.

In 2007, a Kansas City principal sued the city of Independence and JC Penney's after the six-month pregnant woman was forced to lay on her stomach alongside busy Interstate 70 after she was falsely accused from shoplifting from Penney's at Independence Center Mall. A judge dismissed the city, saying officers had sovereign immunity.

After a jury was chosen and the trial was going to trial in 2010, JC Penney's paid an undisclosed amount to settle the lawsuit by Hayes.

An attorney for Masters' family released the following statement on their behalf Monday afternoon:

"The family of Bryce Masters would like to thank everyone for their outpouring of concern and support.

 "Because of significant inconsistencies between public statements made by the Independence Police Department and information made available to the family in the form of statements of eyewitnesses and video and audio footage of the occurrence, the family has asked the United States Department of Justice to conduct its own investigation into these tragic events.

 "Because Bryce is still in critical condition, the Masters family asks that their privacy be respected in allowing them to focus on Bryce's needs and his recovery."

The Independence Police Department issued the following statement:

"On September 14, 2014, at approximately 3:07 p.m., an Independence police officer conducted a vehicle stop in the area of E. Southside Blvd. and Main St. in Independence. The stop was based on a Kansas City PD warrant associate to the plate.

"During the course of the stop the driver became uncooperative, physically resistive to exiting the car, and an altercation ensued leading the officer to deploying his Taser. An ambulance was summoned, per Department Taser policy. Once additional officers and medical personnel arrived it was determined the driver was having a medical emergency and he was transported to an area hospital.

"The officer who conducted the car stop has been placed administrative leave and the Department is conducting a full investigation to determine what factors contributed to the medical emergency, including the actions of that officer. Once the investigation is completed the Department will disclose the findings.

"The FBI is also investigating this incident and our Department will corporate fully with their investigation.

"The driver has been identified as 17 year-old Bryce Masters of Independence. Bryce remains in critical condition in the ICU unit. Our Department's thoughts and prayers are with Bryce and his family and for his complete recovery."

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