State investigation sought in Tasering of teen

Thursday, August 7, 2008 | 5:28 p.m. CDT

OZARK - Officials in Christian County are asking for a state investigation after Ozark police officers repeatedly used Tasers on an injured Branson teen last month.

A police report says the officers found 17-year-old Mace Hutchinson lying on the shoulder of U.S. 65 early on the morning of July 19 after apparently falling from a nearby overpass.

The report said the officers attempted to take Hutchinson into custody when he tried to walk or roll onto the highway and shouted "cops, kill, shoot," ‘'smoke crack" and other comments.

In total, the officers fired their Tasers 19 times during the incident, although the report doesn't say how many times the teen was shocked.

Neither the officers nor Hutchinson's parents have been able to explain why he was on the overpass or how he fell.

But the parents have complained about the police actions, saying the repeated shocks drove up their son's white blood cell count, forcing physicians to delay surgery for his injuries from the fall: a broken back and a broken heel.

Ozark police are conducting an internal investigation, but Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek said he asked the Missouri State Highway Patrol to conduct its own investigation after receiving several calls and letters from the public and discussing the situation with Ozark Police Chief Lyle Hodges and Christian County Sheriff Mike Hodges.

"I am not making this decision lightly," Cleek said, adding that he wasn't necessarily saying the officers had done anything wrong. "However, I think it would behoove us all to request this investigation so that all actions could be looked at by (an) independent agency."

Don Hutchinson, the teen's father, said he was pleased the incident was getting a full review, saying he wasn't happy with the police department's internal investigation.

"Cops investigating themselves, I don't like the sounds of that," he said. He said the family is considering legal action.Meanwhile, Hutchinson said his son is recovering from his injuries.


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