The FBI is investigating how the son of a Kansas City, Missouri, cop ended up in critical condition after a police officer used a Taser on him during a traffic stop over the weekend.
Police in Independence, Missouri, say officer Tim Runnels pulled over the car that 17-year-old Bryce Masters was driving after the officer ran the car’s tags and discovered a warrant linked to a female driver. Police said Masters “physically resisted” officers' demands to step out of the car and that at some point Runnels used his stun gun to subdue the teen.
Independence, a suburb of Kansas City, sits across the state from the city of Ferguson where the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, set off widespread protests last month. In that case, the FBI and the Department of Justice are running parallel investigations to the one being conducted by local law enforcement.
At a news conference this week, Independence Police Maj. Paul Thurman said the officer’s use of his stun gun was within department policy and that Masters was able to exit the car on his own after being shocked. Thurman said Masters collapsed moments later and that the officer requested an ambulance to the scene.
But witness accounts contradict those claims. Witnesses said after the officer used his stun gun on Masters he dragged him from the car to the sidewalk and that the officer then placed his foot on Masters’s back as he convulsed and blood dripped from the teen’s mouth.
"You could tell the kid was going into convulsions," witness Michelle Baker told local station WDAF-TV. Baker said the officer turned Baker over and that his head was dangling and “he had blood coming out."
“He was just like on the ground twitching,” Curtis Martin, a friend of Masters, told the local Fox affiliate. Martin told reporters that Masters was headed to his house to play video games and that when he heard his car pull up to his house he saw a cop car parked behind it.
Martin said that he saw the officer at the car's passenger side and heard the officer ordering Masters to roll down the window.
“I hear him say from my porch, I can’t roll down my window, it’s broke,” Martin told the Fox station.
Police say during the confrontation that followed Officer Runnels warned Masters several times that he was going to the teen if he didn’t stop resisting.
But witnesses say there wasn’t much of a struggle at all and that the force used by the officer was excessive.
Masters’s family has since hired an attorney and asked the Department of Justice and FBI to looking into the case "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," according to a statement.
Masters’ family told KCTV5 that the teen was placed in a medically induced coma because of injuries he suffered to his brain during the incident. Witnesses told KCTV5 that when the officer dragged Masters from the car he dropped him on the sidewalk causing his head to hit the pavement.
“It appears the use of the Taser was in policy and calling the ambulance was also within policy,” Maj. Thurman told KCTV. “I can tell you anybody that is physically resistive that is 17 years of age, that fits within our policy.”
Thurman said police investigators have not yet interviewed Officer Runnels as the department awaits further coordination with the police union. Runnels has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
In 2007, Independence police came under fire after they forced a six-month pregnant elementary school principal to the ground at gun point after the woman was falsely accused of shoplifting from a nearby JC Penney department story. Police were cleared of any wrongdoing and the woman eventually settled with the department store for an undisclosed amount.