Kansas City police paid out more than $9.5M in brutality, force claims since 2014

·3 min read

Excessive force claims brought against the Kansas City Police Department have led to more than $9.5 million in legal settlements in the last seven years, according to a Star analysis.

The latest settlement came Friday, when a federal judge approved $100,000 for a toddler shot in the foot six years ago by an on-duty officer who fired into a fleeing car. The girl was shot the day before her 2nd birthday and required surgery.

Since 2014, the department has paid out at least $9.55 million for brutality and excessive use-of-force claims stemming from shootings, beatings during traffic stops and other incidents, according to The Star’s analysis of police data.

During that time, the two largest settlements came after officers shot Black men, in separate police shootings in 2013 and 2016, more than a dozen times each. Both survived. The first led to a $4.8 million settlement — one of the largest payments in KCPD history — and the other cost taxpayers $1.5 million. One officer, Dakota Merrill, was involved in both shootings and left the police department in 2019.

More recently, the department paid out $725,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a 15-year-old boy who, during a 2019 arrest, suffered a gash on his head, as well as broken teeth, after Sgt. Matthew Neal allegedly forced his knee on the back of the teen’s head.

Prosecutors charged Neal with felony assault in that case, which is pending. He is among five Kansas City officers facing criminal charges in Jackson County, which stem from a fatal shooting to claims of excessive force. Each victim is Black.

Police department spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina said the facts of each case and fiscal responsibility are weighed when making decisions about settlements.

“The board of police commissioners approves all legal settlements and strives to be good stewards of the funding the city provides to the department,” he said in a text message to The Star.

Through a Missouri Sunshine Law request, The Star identified at least 23 settlements paid out for excessive use of force or similar claims since 2014.

The Star’s count includes an incident in which officers were accused of unnecessarily throwing a flash-bang grenade into a house where people posed no threat. It also includes incidents that did not make headlines, including a $6,000 payment made to a cable worker injured while an officer was executing a search warrant.

Another $800,000 total was paid out in at least seven settlements during that time, but they are not included in The Star’s total because it is unclear what types of claims led to them.

Some of those cases were sealed, while others were redacted in police data. The police department heavily redacted at least two of them, including the date the payments were made and to whom.

The police department additionally has several lawsuits pending against it. In June, the family of Cameron Lamb, who was shot by a detective in 2019 as he sat in a pickup truck in his own backyard, filed a $10 million lawsuit against the department. As part of that suit, attorneys for Lamb’s family noted that other past excessive force claims have led to large settlements.

Eric DeValkenaere, the detective who fatally shot Lamb, was charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the shooting. He is set to stand trial Nov. 8.

Last month, a man who lost vision in one of his eyes after being hit by a projectile fired during the protests last year at The Plaza, filed a lawsuit against the City of Kansas City and the Kansas City Police Department’s Board of Police Commissioners.

Another lawsuit stemming from the protests was filed by a man and his teenage daughter who were pepper sprayed. That case also remains ongoing.

In August, the department agreed to pay $200,000 to a man severely injured after police fired a tear gas canister at protesters.

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