Crime

Independence police officer allegedly detected marijuana before he subdued teen with stun gun

After emerging from a coma, Truman High School senior Bryce Masters spoke with family members and physicians, the family’s attorney said.
After emerging from a coma, Truman High School senior Bryce Masters spoke with family members and physicians, the family’s attorney said.

An Independence police officer detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle driven by a 17-year-old he later subdued with a stun gun, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The teen, Bryce Masters of Independence, refused to comply with the officer’s demands to exit the vehicle and physically braced himself to prevent the officer from pulling him out, according to a court document that police filed to request a search warrant for the car.

Masters also reportedly used his iPhone to record the encounter, according to the court document.

When Masters refused to exit the car, the officer deployed his stun gun. Its probes struck the youth in the chest. Masters experienced a medical emergency and had to be resuscitated, police said.

According to the search warrant return, police recovered from the vehicle an Apple iPhone, drug paraphernalia and the tracking tag from the stun gun. Court records do not specify what drug paraphernalia was found.

The incident unfolded during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon at East Southside Boulevard and Main Street. The FBI’s Kansas City office is investigating whether the officer, Timothy N. Runnels, used excessive force.

According to Masters’ family, the stun gun’s probes caused Masters to go into cardiac arrhythmia and cardiac arrest. Doctors placed him into a medically induced coma that included lowering his core body temperature.

After emerging from the coma, the Truman High School senior spoke with family members and physicians, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.

Masters remained in critical condition Wednesday in the intensive-care unit. He has experienced some memory loss consistent with oxygen deprivation, and he has developed pneumonia and other infections as a result of being placed on a ventilator, according to Daniel Haus, the family’s attorney.

“While Bryce is still in the intensive-care unit, the family is relieved and encouraged at this progress, but concern remains for the long-term effect of his injuries,” Haus said in a statement.

Police said 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 not in the vehicle, which had darkly tinted windows.

According to the search warrant, Runnels ordered Masters to roll down the passenger’s side window. Masters asked Runnels, “Why? I can hear you.”

Runnels walked to the driver’s side and opened the door. Masters held up a cellphone and appeared to record the incident, according to the search warrant request.

Masters again refused Runnels’ demand to get out of the vehicle and asked, “Why? Am I under arrest?” He physically braced himself as Runnels tried to pull him out. Runnels pulled out his stun gun and demanded that Masters get out of the car.

After Runnels fired the stun gun, striking Masters, Masters got out of the vehicle and laid on the ground. Runnels handcuffed him and told him to move to the curb. When he didn’t comply, Runnels dragged him to the curb, the warrant said.

Masters was taken to Centerpoint Medical Center. He began to recover slowly overnight and began speaking with family and answering questions from the hospital staff.

“They are seeing some signals that their son may make a fairly remarkable recovery, basically coming back from the dead,” Haus said Wednesday. “The comment that was made (by the parents) was: I think we have our son back.

“It looks like whatever the doctors did with this medically induced coma, this new procedure where they lower the body temperature, was exactly what he needed,” Haus said.

The 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix that Masters was driving was a family vehicle that was legally registered, he said.

It is possible that a clerical error caused the police warrant to be attached to the vehicle. The woman who police said was associated with the warrant does not live in the Kansas City area and is unknown to the family, Haus said.

“It is no fault of the officer that ran it (the warrant). It is no fault of the dispatcher that ran it,” he said. “It is what it is. From a law enforcement perspective, it is a totally acceptable means or reason for stopping someone.”

How Runnels treated Masters and his conduct after deploying the stun gun are being questioned and likely are part of the federal investigation.

“When a law enforcement officer takes someone into custody, they have an obligation to care for that person and provide for their needs,” Haus said. “The minute you put handcuffs on somebody, they are your responsibility.”

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

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