Police Report on Excessive Force Claim a ‘Flat-Out Lie,’ Witness Says.
After a bystander filmed a man who appears to have been thrown to the ground by a Kansas City police officer late this summer, the department opened an investigation of the incident. The video shows Mack Nelson, 44, lying injured on the ground for several minutes after the encounter.
But with a police report from that evening painting a seemingly different picture than what was shown on video, Nelson’s attorney, John Picerno, said the account suggests officers tried to conceal the true nature of the incident by claiming his client fell. Picerno said that, had the exchange not been filmed, an investigation never would’ve occurred. “But for this video, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Picerno said. “They would have covered this up, and no one would ever have known about this.”
Witness account, video from the scene The evening of Aug. 8, Nelson was at a gas station near East 55th Street and Prospect Avenue when officers shot Zachary Garrard, 31. Nelson was asked to remain inside while officers processed the scene. After a while, Nelson said they were told they could leave. When he walked outside, Nelson immediately entered the crime scene. Nelson said he began to take videos of the officers for Facebook Live and was making comments the officers didn’t appreciate. Steve Young, co-founder of the Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project, was at the scene when he said he saw Nelson thrown by the officer. Young filmed the interaction between Nelson and police. After watching the officers talk with Nelson, Young said he saw an officer go behind Nelson. “He was just standing there,” Young said. “Out of nowhere, while the male cop was behind [Nelson] and [Nelson] had his hands behind his back, he just lifted him in the air and slammed him on his head.” Nelson appeared to be unconscious for a period of time, Young said, and was bleeding from his head. After several minutes, Nelson was transported by emergency medical services.
Police report strikes different tone A police report obtained by The Star and penned by officer Alyssa Surges describes a different interaction between the officer and Nelson, claiming he sustained his injuries after falling. According to the report, Nelson was asked several times to get behind the crime scene tape but refused to comply. At one point, Nelson walked up to the spot where Kansas City firefighters were washing down the scene of the shooting. Officers notified Nelson he was under arrest, at which point an officer referred to in the report as “PO Frazier” began to handcuff him. According to Surges, Nelson jerked his hands and body away from Frazier during the arrest, causing him to fall and hit the pavement.
After being transported to the hospital and receiving treatment, Nelson allegedly refused to leave. The report indicates officers arrested Nelson early Aug. 9. Nelson was ticketed with disorderly conduct, trespass, and obstructing or resisting police. But after seeing the incident firsthand, Young said he’s troubled with the officers’ account. He said the police report completely differs from what he saw. “It’s a flat-out lie,” he said. “They just totally lied on that report.”
Picerno said the video clearly shows the report to be untruthful. He also believes that the discrepancies speak to a broader issue within the Kansas City Police Department. Like Nelson, many claim to be victims of excessive force but are pitted against differing police reports. These accounts often make similar claims, saying victims fell or struggled against police, Picerno said, and juries tend to believe law enforcement. “He’s like a lot of my clients or potential clients that come to me and tell me they were abused by the police,” he said. “But in this case … we’ve got video. We know he didn’t fall.”
Capt. Leslie Foreman, a spokeswoman with KCPD, told The Star Tuesday that the incident is being investigated by the department’s assault squad and will be turned over to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office for review once it’s complete. Foreman said she could not comment on the content of the video or the report because the investigation is ongoing.
This story was originally published December 14, 2022 3:39 PM.