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“Life’s most urgent question is : What are you doing for others?”

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Wrongfully Arrested Black Man Gets $900K, Apology in Settlement with Police

30 Aug 2022
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Nationwide — Tyree Bell, from Kansas City, Missouri, was just 15-years old when he was arrested and held in jail for 3 weeks for a crime he did not commit. Now he is 21-years old, and has been granted a $900,000 settlement and an apology from the Kansas City Police Department.

In June 2016, Bell was walking home from a relative’s house when he was stopped by police officers Peter Neukrich and Jonathan Munyan.

 

The officers were apparently responding to a call on 3 Black men playing guns in the area. One of the two officers chased one who tried to flee but lost him.

A few minutes later, another police officer found Bell walking a mile away. The police then stopped and arrested Bell even though he was obviously taller than the suspect, has hair and clothing entirely different from those of the suspect.

Bell was placed on a 24-hour “investigative hold” and was detained for 3 weeks without charge. He was only released when a detective concluded his clothing and appearance did not match those of the suspect after watching patrol car videos.

“It was a part of a national disgrace that has been allowed to persist among white police for forty years: cross-race identifications of Black males by white officers are often wrong,” Bell’s attorney Arthur Benson said, according to KCUR. “And they are often wrong because too many police departments do not train their officers that all Blacks do not look alike and how to make an eyewitness identification that is not tainted by racial stereotypes. Tyree Bell was a victim of the Kansas City Police Department’s failure to address this national outrage.”

Bell originally filed a lawsuit against Neukrich and Munyan in 2017 but the case was dismissed as they were found entitled to qualified immunity.

In October 2020, a federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit after finding that the police officers did not have probable cause to arrest Bell. The jury did not reach a unanimous verdict during the trial which was declared a mistrial by the judge. It was set to go to trial again but was canceled due to the pending settlement.

Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said in a statement that “the Board of Police Commissioners have agreed to a settlement amount of $900,000 made payable to Mr. Bell, and his attorney Arthur Benson representing $458,000 for attorney’s fees and costs and $442,000 for compensatory damages. We are glad we reached a mutual resolution and we wish Mr. Bell and his family all the best.”

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