COLUMBIA — Columbia police have arrested two men on suspicion of using rifles to rob a gas station at midnight Saturday , but it remains unclear whether an officer's use of a Taser was appropriate according to new guidelines outlined by Columbia Police Chief Kenneth Burton.
Byron Anderson, 19, and Zachary Wyatt, 18, were arrested on suspicion of stealing money and cartons of cigarettes from a 20-year-old female clerk working at the Break Time Convenience Store at 1416 S. Old 63, the department said in a release.
An officer who responded found Anderson next to a car behind the gas station, the release stated.
"Anderson ran from the officer, and the officer deployed his Taser, but it was not effective," the release stated.
Another officer arrived and helped arrest Anderson, according to the release, and the officers found a rifle and a bag containing at least some of the stolen money.
Minutes later, officers found Wyatt on Danforth Drive and arrested him. According to the release, Wyatt had some of the stolen property, as well as the key to a car that had been left at the gas station. Officers found a second rifle nearby.
The incident comes immediately on the heels of comments made by the police chief indicating that the department has changed its policy on Taser use.
On Friday, Chief Burton spoke about Tasers during the City Council's retreat in the Lake of the Ozarks. Department policy used to allow officers to shoot fleeing people with a Taser, Burton said, but doing so can cause injuries because people lose control of their bodies when stunned and is now forbidden.
Burton said policy now requires that officers use Tasers only in defense of an officer or another person. It is not clear when the policy changed.
Columbia Police Department Sgt. Dan Beckman said the Taser struck Anderson in the chest and in the arm, but was ineffective because the electrified tips got stuck in Anderson’s clothing.
Beckman, who was reading the information from an initial report, said he did not have information about whether Anderson threatened the officer. Beckman said the officer chased Anderson at one point, but Anderson would have been facing the officer in some way because the Taser hit him in the chest.
Anderson was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery, armed criminal action and resisting arrest. Wyatt was arrested on suspicion of first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Both are being held at the Boone County Jail, the release stated.
Beckman declined to release the name of the clerk or the names of the officers involved, citing the ongoing investigation.
Missourian reporter Tim Rice contributed to this report.