A federal lawsuit says an autistic teenager was punched and shocked with a Taser seven times by law enforcement officers in Maryville, Mo.
The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Joseph by the parents of Christopher Kramer, who has been found by a court to be an incapacitated and disabled person.
“Chris has a form of autism and that is the basis for his incapacity and disability,” according to the suit. “He has impairments in comprehension and speech.”
Last May, Kramer was 18 and in his senior year at Maryville High School where he was a special education student.
According to the allegations outlined in the suit:
On May 6, Kramer was jogging in Maryville when he stopped to tie his shoe in the yard of a house where there was no sidewalk.
A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper lived there and the trooper, who was not in uniform, called out to Kramer, “Can I help you with something?”
Kramer became frightened and began running. He continued running when the trooper yelled for him to stop.
The trooper than called Maryville police and described Kramer, telling a dispatcher that he was “kinda headed toward my front door. “Then, when I hollered at him, he took off running.”
The dispatcher then notified officers in the area that the trooper had called and “said a teenage male individual came up to his front door. (The trooper) confronted him, and the kid took off running.”
A Maryville Public Safety officer and a deputy with the Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call and spotted Kramer.
As the officers drove up to him, Kramer began running, and the officers started chasing him on foot.
The officers shouted commands at Kramer,but he was afraid and with “limited comprehension,” he did not stop.
Kramer was “terrified” because of a previous encounter with police and could not understand why he was being chased.
Another Maryville officer arrived and ran after Kramer, reportedly tackling him to the ground.
The other officers arrived as Kramer struggled on the ground. He was “wailing, screaming and crying,” when one of the officers allegedly shocked him with a Taser.
“Chris, confused, frightened and in pain, and not understanding at all what was happening or why, continued to struggle, cry that he wanted to go home and ask why ‘police car coming.’ ”
During the next several minutes, he was reportedly tased six more times, and after he “made contact” with two of the officers, one of them allegedly punched him in the head several times before they were able to restrain him with handcuffs.
The officers called an ambulance to check Kramer. As he became calmer, the officers took the handcuffs off and called his parents.
After he was checked by the ambulance crew, Kramer was released to his parents and was not charged in connection to the incident.
According to the suit, Kramer suffered “excruciating pain” as a result of being tased seven times.
“Chris was terrified by the incident; he suffered apprehension, mental distress, anxiety and emotional pain and suffering,” the suit says.
The suit names three Maryville officers, the Nodaway County deputy and the Highway Patrol trooper as defendants. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages for wrongful detention and use of excessive force.
Maryville City Manager Greg McDanel issued a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“The reality of law enforcement is that officers must make split second decisions based on the behaviors and circumstances they witness while protecting their community,” McDanel wrote. “There simply is no way any officer could have known Mr. Kramer’s personal circumstances before this issue transpired. Officers immediately responded with care and compassion upon discovery of Mr. Kramer’s situation. We are confident the facts will become clear through the legal process.”
Arthur Benson, the Kansas City attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Kramer’s parents, declined to comment.
“The lawsuit speaks for itself,” he said.