Teen Tased by Police Officer in Independence, Missouri, Awarded $6.5 Million in Damages

Years after a teen was almost killed by a police officer in Missouri, a jury awarded him over six million dollars in damages.

In September 2014, when Bryce Masters was 17 years old, he was pulled over in his car by then-Independence, Missouri, police officer Timothy Runnels. Runnels believed there was a warrant out for the license plate, according to the Kansas City Star.

Dashboard camera footage from the incident, which was played in court, showed Masters refusing multiple orders to exit his car, telling the officer he didn’t do anything wrong. Runnels deployed his taser, at which point, Masters exited the car.

Face down on the pavement, Runnels disengaged his taser after about 20 seconds. Runnels pulled Masters to his feet, handcuffed him and then dropped him to the pavement. After a few minutes, he called an ambulance and someone can be heard in the video saying, “He’s turning blue.”

Masters’s father, Matt, is a police officer with the Kansas City department and told the court that the family arrived while paramedics were reviving his son, who went into cardiac arrest.

“Bryce was clinically dead,” his father said. “We cried and prayed that God would bring him back to us.”

taser bryce masters A French gendarme holds a taser as he patrols at the Christmas market in Tours, central France, on December 23, 2016. On Friday, a jury awarded Bryce Masters $6.5 million after a police officer's use of a taser caused him to go into cardiac arrest. GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images

The then-17-year-old was taken to the hospital and kept alive by a ventilator. Doctors told his parents that the boy would likely be a vegetable for the rest of his life, although, he did come out the other side. However, his recovery hasn’t been without its challenges.

Matt said his son is irritable, angry and has trouble focusing. While he may look normal, his father said he isn’t. At the time, Tammy Dickinson, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said that Runnels used excessive force and violated the public’s trust.

“Police officers are not above the law and will be held accountable when they violate the civil rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve,” Dickinson said.

In 2016, Runnels pleaded guilty to violating Masters’s civil rights and was sentenced to four years in prison. He told the court at the time that he never meant to hurt the 17-year-old and apologized to the family, according to WDAF. The 35-year-old is scheduled to be released from prison in January 2020.

Masters filed a lawsuit against Runnels and on Friday, a jury awarded the teen $6.5 million in damages, the Kansas City Star reported. The jury assessed $5 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages.

“Today the jury sent a clear message to law enforcement that excessive force will not be tolerated,” Masters’s attorney, Kirk Presley said. “This verdict upholds the constitutional provisions that protect us all from the abuse of power. As a result of this verdict, the Masters family can now truly begin to heal.”

It’s unclear if the city of Independence will have to help with payment of the damages.



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