Taser complaint asks for clarification in November's Subway incident

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 | 4:13 p.m. CST; updated 4:26 p.m. CST, Thursday, December 30, 2010

COLUMBIA — A citizens' complaint asks for answers and clarification about a Nov. 16 incident in which Columbia police used a Taser on a man in a Ninth Street business.

The complaint was filed by eight citizens on Dec. 16 and seeks a police response within 30 days from that date. Contents of the complaint were released Tuesday following a Sunshine request from the Missourian.


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According to a previous Missourian article, the incident involved a 45-year-old man who was reportedly trespassing at the Starbucks at Ninth and Elm streets. Police were called, and Officers Mark Brotemarkle and Mike Valley and Sgt. Will Green responded. They asked the man to leave.

Later, they found the man inside Subway, 304 S. Ninth St. It is unclear why the officers went to the Subway site. When they attempted to arrest the man, he was uncooperative. They warned him that they would use the Taser on him, and they did. The man was then taken to University Hospital.

The man left the hospital, and police now have a warrant for his arrest. Because he has not been arrested, police will not disclose his name, any charges against him or the nature of any charges, said Columbia Police spokeswoman Officer Jill Wieneke.

The complaint filed by the citizens asks what the phone call from Starbucks employees entailed as well as details about where on his body the man was stunned and for how long.

"We expect the police chief to be responsive to the community and to the law and not ever to cover up the possible misdeeds of his employees," said David Finke, one of the eight citizens listed on the complaint and chairman of the board for the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation. "We hope for increased dialogue, transparency and accountability."

Regarding the severity of the suspect's offense, the citizens ask "what the exact crime committed by the suspect was," citing Columbia Police Department policy that deadly force may only be used when the officer believes it is in the defense of human life or prevention of serious physical injury. They see the use of Tasers as potentially deadly, especially if the suspect had pre-existing health conditions.

The citizens also hope to clarify why the officers "bypassed other de-escalation techniques, or non-lethal weapons" and ask for confirmation that this was a "case of excessive force."

They also request that Police Chief Ken Burton describe measures the department will take to assure residents and visitors "that our officers will not use the threat of tasering and/or tasering merely for noncompliance, disobedience or a lack of cooperation."

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Ricky Gurley December 22, 2010 | 6:17 p.m.

I think the CPD has made some noticeable progress on using some restraint with regards to the Taser.

I'll admit that I am the first to criticize the CPD when they do something that appears to be "glaringly wrong". But they should also be commended when they make positive progress in their attempts to improve.

It cannot be "one-sided".

Maybe Chief Burton has done something that is making a difference in this area.

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire December 23, 2010 | 10:59 a.m.

We all know that it was necessary to confront the man who was no longer "trespassing" in the local business that was open to the public and that the man obviously presented a danger to the public at large. It would have been impossible for several officers to restrain him had they not used their tasers. He might have even walked into the subway and tried to order some food.

(Report Comment)

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