Man Sues 5 KCPD Officers Months After Video Released of Him Being Thrown to Ground
Months after video captured a man being thrown to the ground by Kansas City police, according to witnesses who taped the encounter, a lawsuit was filed against five officers in the department. Mack Nelson – the man who sustained head injuries outside a gas station in August – is suing for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to documents filed in Jackson County Circuit Court Thursday.
Steve Young, co-founder of the Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project, recorded the interaction between Nelson and the officers. In a previous interview with The Star, Young described seeing Nelson being “body slammed” by the officer. Afterward, Young said Nelson lay on the ground unconscious, his head bleeding, for several minutes. “Next thing you know, he picks the guy up and slams him right on his head and knocks the guy out cold,” Young said. “It was really upsetting to see that, because it just came out of nowhere, and this guy wasn’t being a threat to them.”
Despite the case being under review by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, Nelson’s attorney, John Picerno, said he’s unaware of any internal action against the officers by KCPD. “These officers, to our knowledge, have not been removed from duty, or suspended or disciplined in any way,” he said. “[Nelson] is very committed to contributing to the change of culture in KCPD, and he really wants these officers to be disciplined.”
While at a gas station off East 55th Street and Prospect Avenue the evening of Aug. 8, Zachary Garrard, 31, was shot and killed by police. Nelson and others at the scene were asked to remain inside while officers processed the evidence. After a while, patrons inside the gas station were told they could leave. Nelson told The Star he was upset that officers had shot someone and weren’t thoroughly questioning witnesses, so he began to take videos for Facebook Live and make comments the officers didn’t appreciate. According to the lawsuit, Nelson was asked to stay behind the police tape, and he complied. Nelson then allegedly walked to a portion of the parking lot not marked by police tape. At police’s command, Nelson began to back up from that area. An officer referred to as “Frazier” then grabbed him and initiated an arrest, claiming he failed to comply with orders, court documents state. Frazier then attempted to restrain Nelson, knocking the phone out of his hand before he forced the man’s face onto the pavement, court documents allege.
Nelson sustained injuries to his face, eye, head, shoulders, body, according to the lawsuit, and was transported to an area hospital where he received multiple stitches. He was later arrested and ticketed with disorderly conduct, trespass, and obstructing or resisting police. In Young’s video, he narrates as injured Nelson sat slouched over, eventually given towels for his head before being taken into the ambulance. “He wasn’t doing nothing to them,” Young can be heard yelling in the background. “They probably slammed his head on the ground.”
Differing reports, lack of police trust In a police report penned by Officer Surges, she claims Nelson fell to the ground after “jerking his arms away and attempting to twist his body away from P.O. Frazier.” In Frazier’s account, however, he alleges Nelson was “pulled onto the ground.” Picerno said the discrepancies between the two reports and what was captured on film highlight an issue with police accounts of excessive force incidents. “But for [the bystander] video, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Picerno said in a previous interview. “They would have covered this up, and no one would ever have known about this.”
None of the five officers mentioned in the lawsuit were recording the interaction with their body cameras, court documents state, with the exception of Surges, who turned her camera on only after the alleged assault. The lawsuit references a storefront camera that also captured the exchange, which has not been released to the public. The lawsuit gives only the last names of the officers being sued – Surges, Frazier, Powell, Robinson and one “John Doe.” KCPD declined to release the officers’ full names
Each defendant was allegedly at the scene when Nelson was injured. Nelson continues to suffer facial numbness, and Picerno said his client is scared of police. In a previous interview, Nelson said KCPD officers have lost his trust. “They need to be held accountable,” Nelson said. “When you sign up for a job, no matter what job you got, it’s gonna come with its ups and downs … but you can’t act out your frustrations, especially being a police officer.”
In response to The Star’s request for comment, Capt. Corey Carlisle, a spokesman for KCPD, said the department does not generally comment on pending civil cases. Michael Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors are currently reviewing the case.