Crime

Video shows teen after Independence police officer used stun gun on him

Bryce Masters (left), pictured here with his mother, remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday, according to a statement released by the family, as questions swirled about how a confrontation with police so severely threatened his health.
Bryce Masters (left), pictured here with his mother, remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday, according to a statement released by the family, as questions swirled about how a confrontation with police so severely threatened his health.

Bryce Masters loves playing football, Xbox and taking apart computers and cellphones and reassembling them.

His family said Tuesday it is hoping the 17-year-old Truman High School senior will resume those hobbies as he recovers from the brain injuries he suffered when he was subdued by an Independence police officer with a stun gun following a traffic stop.

Masters remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday, according to a statement released by the family, as questions swirled about how a confrontation with police so severely threatened his health.

He had been in a medically induced coma since being hospitalized following the Sunday afternoon incident. On Monday evening, he responded to stimuli after physicians began to bring him out of the coma.

“Although the news is positive, the family remains guardedly optimistic, as it is far too early to know the long-term effect of his injuries,” the family statement said.

Masters is described as a good student who played on his school’s football team as a linebacker and a fullback.

His plans were to follow an older brother, who also is tech savvy, and attend Missouri State University to study computer science.

“He should survive,” his 19-year-old brother Colin Masters said in an interview. “That is what we are all hoping.”

The incident Sunday unfolded at East Southside Boulevard and Main Street after Officer Tim Runnels pulled over Masters because there was a Kansas City police warrant associated with the license plate on the vehicle he was driving. The warrant was associated with a female. She was not in the vehicle, which had darkly tinted windows.

Video shot on a cellphone by a witness who was next door to the scene shows Runnels and Masters on the ground outside the car.

Police said Masters was uncooperative and physically resistant and refused to get out of the car. They also say Runnels warned him that he would use a stun gun.

Runnels deployed the stun gun while Masters still was in the car. Masters got out of the car under his own power but fell to the ground, police said.

The probes from the stun gun struck Masters about six inches apart near his heart, the family said. According to a Centerpoint Medical Center trauma surgeon, the stun gun appears to have caused Masters to go into cardiac arrhythmia. He was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived, according to the family’s statement released by their attorney, Daniel J. Haus.

Masters is being treated for severe acute oxygen deprivation to the brain during the cardiac arrest, the family said. Masters was not being treated for head trauma related to a fall or being struck. He was placed in a medically induced coma that included the lowering of his core body temperature.

Monday evening, physicians began bringing him out of the medically induced coma. He began responding to stimuli early Tuesday morning.

The FBI’s Kansas City office will investigate whether Runnels used excessive force. The inquiry falls under the FBI’s civil rights program.

On Tuesday, Independence police released the department policy on the use of stun guns. It is against department policy for an officer to deploy his stun gun if an unarmed person refuses to comply with an officer’s verbal command or if the person does not pose an immediate threat, the policy says.

However, officers can deploy a stun gun when they believe the subject poses an immediate threat to an officer or another person, when the subject uses force to resist arrest, when the subject flees arrest or when he tries to harm himself.

The policy also says the “preferred target … for front shots” should avoid the “chest or area of the heart.”

After being stuck by the stun gun, Masters stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated.

Colin Masters described the long hours after the incident as “almost surreal.” He said the family is surrounded by loved ones helping them deal with the situation.

“My parents are taking it differently than I am — they were grieving pretty hard,” said Colin Masters. “I cried too, but now I am so mad at the situation that it is hard for me to sit down.”

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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