Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri announced that a federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment against former Independence, Missouri, police officer Timothy Runnels for violating the constitutional rights of a minor who was in his custody and obstructing the subsequent investigation into the incident.
According to the indictment, Runnels continuously deployed a Taser against the minor while the minor was on the ground and not posing a threat to Runnels or others. The indictment also charges that Runnels deliberately dropped the minor headfirst onto the ground while the minor was restrained and not posing a threat to Runnels or others. The indictment alleges that the minor sustained bodily injury as a result of Runnels’ actions and, with respect to the first count, that the offense involved the use of a dangerous weapon. The indictment also charges Runnels with two counts of obstruction of justice for filing a false police report concerning the incident and for making a false statement to Independence Police Department investigators regarding the amount of force that he used against the minor.
If convicted, Runnels faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for each of two charged counts of civil rights violations, and a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for one count of obstruction of justice by submitting a false police report and one count of providing misleading information to Independence Police Department investigators.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Kansas City Division and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Shan Patel of the Civil Rights Division and First Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri.