June 9, 2016
Independence, Missouri: Cop Tasered Teen During Traffic Stop, Dash-Cam Video Released

An Independence, Missouri, cop tasered a teen during a traffic stop back in 2014, and a dash-cam video of the incident has now been released to the public.

Timothy Runnels, a former Independence police officer, was sentenced late last month to four years in prison for violating then-17-year-old Bryce Masters' civil rights. A federal judge had the video played at Runnels' sentencing hearing and said the video has now been posted online.

Runnels, who pleaded guilty, faced a possible 10 years in prison. Masters almost died at the scene of the traffic stop. He went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain damage due to oxygen deprivation.

The former Independence cop tasered Masters after he repeatedly ordered the teen to get out of his car. The legal problem wasn't the use of a Taser on an uncooperative subject. Even prosecutors said using Tasers in such situations are both reasonable and within common police practice, according to the Intercept.

But Runnels held the Taser's trigger for roughly 23 seconds or the equivalent of four separate shots. Still, that wasn't what sent Runnels to prison. Runnels violated Masters' civil rights when he dragged the youth across the pavement and dropped him on his face, which you can see at the end of the video below.

Not everyone agrees that the deployment of the Taser was reasonable.

The Independence, Missouri, cop's tasering was questioned by another Missouri cop: Matt Masters, Bryce's father.

Matt Masters has been a cop in Kansas City, Missouri, for nearly 20 years and has worked in the narcotics unit and on SWAT teams. He agrees with the prosecutor that tasering is common police practice, but he disagrees with the Taser's use on his son.

What is not seen on the video may also have been taken into account in both the trial and the sentencing. The Chicago Tribune reports that Runnels called an ambulance but never checked on Bryce Masters. The teenager was in cardiac arrest for eight minutes. The ambulance took him to a hospital and put into a medically induced coma.

The cop who tasered the teen never gave Masters the reason he was under arrest. The Kansas City Star says there was a warrant mistakenly tied to the license plate of the car Masters was driving. Why the son of a veteran police officer didn't simply comply, and why a veteran cop didn't give a reason for the arrest, are unanswered questions.

The Intercept speculates, however, that Masters may have had an earlier illegal search by police in mind. Independence cops found a small bag of marijuana in his pocket. Kansas City officer Matt Masters told his son his civil rights had been violated. The cops didn't have probable cause to search, and Bryce had every right, if he was ever stopped, to know why.

Runnels also had an earlier run-in with the teen. Although Matt Masters and his wife, Stacy, had little trouble raising their son, Bryce began having issues with Independence police, including Runnels, before the September 2014 tasering. Runnels and Officer Travis Gillihan searched Bryce and his friend, Curtis Martes, and again found marijuana.

The Missouri cop who tasered the teen is heading to prison, but Bryce Masters will have to deal with his own, much longer sentence. He now suffers from brain damage as a result of the incident with Runnels and says that he struggles daily with staying focused and with memory issues.

Officer Matt Masters, who once thought Tasers were a safe tool to be used by officers when under physical threat to themselves, now knows the technology can be lethal.

Do you think the Independence, Missouri, cop should have tasered the teen?

[Image via Stephen Coburn/Shutterstock Images]