Independence, MO – After excessively tazing a fellow cop’s underage son during a traffic stop and slamming the handcuffed teen face-first onto the street, an overzealous officer was recently sentenced to four years in prison for violating the minor’s civil rights. As the boy went into cardiac arrest and technically died before paramedics resuscitated him, the aggressive cop was captured on video manhandling and stepping on the dying teen’s motionless body.
On the afternoon of September 14, 2014, Officer Timothy Runnels pulled over 17-year-old Bryce Masters because his license plate matched a plate wanted for a traffic warrant. According to the police, Masters refused to cooperate with Officer Reynolds and resisted arrest.
But according to witness statements and video footage, Officer Runnels’ account of the incident was full of inaccuracies. After inviting Masters over to play Xbox, 17-year-old Curtis Martes opened his front door to find his friend being pulled over by a patrol car. Martes watched as Runnels approached Masters and ordered him to roll down his window.
“I hear him say from my porch he’s like ‘I can’t roll down my window it’s broke,’” recalled Martes. “He doesn’t have the cable that allows the electric window to work.”
Claiming that Masters had refused to completely roll down his window, Runnels asked Masters to exit the vehicle when the teen began recording the incident on his cell phone.
“He was like ‘what am I being arrested for?’ The cop just grabbed him and said ‘you’re under arrest,’” asserted Martes.
Tasing Masters in the chest for roughly 20 seconds, four times longer than officers are trained to deploy a Taser, Runnels pulled the teen out of the car and placed him in handcuffs despite the fact that witnesses did not see Masters fighting back.
“The cop was like, ‘You want to mess with me,’ and pulled out his Taser and tased him,” witness Michelle Baker recalled after recording a cell phone video shortly after the incident. “I thought he shot him. Then he pulled him out of the car, handcuffed him, and drug him around the car. It looked like he hit his head on the concrete. You could see blood coming out of his mouth. The cop put his foot on his back and moved it back and forth like he was putting a cigarette out and asked him, ‘Are you ready to get up now?’ You could tell the kid was going into convulsions.”
The son of a Kansas City Police Officer, Bryce Masters went into fatal cardiac arrhythmia and died on the sidewalk. Masters was in full cardiac arrest when emergency responders arrived and resuscitated him. Due to severe oxygen deprivation to his brain, Masters was transported to a local hospital and placed in a chemically-induced coma. Bryce’s brother, Colin, told reporters that his brother might have stopped breathing for over five minutes.
According to reports, the license plate on Masters’ car was linked to a warrant belonging to a female who was not present at the scene.
On March 27, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Runnels for deploying a Taser against a minor restrained on the ground and deliberately slamming Masters headfirst onto the street while the teen was handcuffed and not posing a threat to Runnels or others. Runnels was also charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for filing a false police report concerning the incident and for making a false statement to Independence Police Department investigators.
“This former police officer was trained and entrusted to enforce the law impartially,” stated U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson. “His use of excessive force violated both the public’s trust and his oath to uphold the law.”
After pleading guilty to violating the constitutional rights of a minor in his custody, Runnels was sentenced on Wednesday to four years in prison with two years of supervised release.
Following Runnels’ sentencing, Masters’ family stated, “The past twenty months have been emotionally and physically exhausting. We hope that today’s sentence will allow Bryce to begin to focus on his future. Aside from dealing with a traumatic brain injury, Bryce has battled the perception that he is somehow responsible for the crime committed against him. Bryce’s only mistake in this situation was following his parents’ advice to ask questions, particularly to ask ‘why’ if stopped by law enforcement. While we are pleased that Mr. Runnels was held accountable for his actions, no one really wins in this scenario. Two law enforcement families were devastated by these events and we all simply wish that day had never happened.”
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