Mistrial declared in civil rights case of Kansas City police who wrongly arrested teen

·2 min read

A mistrial was declared in the federal civil rights lawsuit brought against two Kansas City police officers who wrongfully arrested a Black teenager in 2016 after the jury was unable to arrive at a consensus.

The lawsuit was brought by the family of Tyree Bell, a then-15-year-old who was held by police despite evidence of his innocence, his attorneys say. Police have denied violating Bell’s constitutional rights or holding on to exonerating evidence in federal court.

During the trial, which began Oct. 4, evidence presented to the jury included incident reports, patrol car videos, police audio recordings and maps showing the distance between the area of the reported crime and the place where Bell was arrested. But the jury during its deliberations had several questions about the evidence presented, court records show.

“After considerable deliberation to reach a unanimous verdict we are unable to agree without violating some jurors’ conscience,” a note signed by the jury at 8:46 p.m. on Oct. 8 said. “Therefore we respectfully request to be released as jurors in this case.”

Arthur Benson, an attorney for Bell, told The Star on Wednesday that they are looking forward to a new trial.

Bell was jailed for three weeks over the summer of 2016 after officers Jonathan Munyan and Peter Neukirch arrested him based on his resemblance to one of three Black teenagers seen showing off a firearm June 8, 2016, at East 91st Street and Marsh Avenue.

One of the teenagers there fled on foot and threw a gun over a fence. Bell was found walking more than a mile away less than 10 minutes later.

At the time, Bell says the officers put him in the squad car and “high-fived each other.”

“I was shocked,” Bell said of the officers, recalling his arrest in 2018.

In some ways, Bell matched the other teen’s description. But he showed no signs of having run in near 90 degree heat. Bell wasn’t released until a detective viewed dashcam footage — after numerous requests from his mother — and determined he was not the teen who fled.

Bell’s mother sued the officers, who are white, for unlawful arrest, negligent training and supervision, and deprivation of her son’s constitutional rights the following year.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Greg Kays dismissed the lawsuit, ruling the officers were entitled to “qualified immunity,” which protects government officials from being sued unless there is a clear violation of constitutional rights. But last year, an appeals court overturned Kays’ decision.

The Star’s Luke Nozicka contributed to this report.

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