COLUMBIA — Patrol officer Rob Sanders, an 18-year veteran of the Columbia Police Department, was fired Wednesday after an internal affairs investigation into his use of excessive force against a man in a holding cell on Aug. 15.
The man’s attorney, Ron Netemeyer, confirmed Thursday that his client was Kenneth Baker, 38, a Columbia resident. Police declined to release Sanders’ or Baker’s name during a Wednesday news conference.
Netemeyer began representing Baker as a result of the incident. He said he hasn’t yet taken legal action against Sanders or the department, though he and Baker were still deciding whether to pursue a civil rights lawsuit.
“One thing that concerns me is that statements made by the chief and in various press releases seem to indicate that these are minor injuries,” Netemeyer said.
Burton said during Wednesday’s conference that he didn’t think Baker’s injuries were serious.
“(The injuries) weren’t significant that I know of, but obviously there was some blood,” he said.
Netemeyer said Baker, who was hospitalized for three or four days after the incident, fractured a vertebra and sustained permanent injury to his back. Netemeyer also said Baker faces “extensive” medical bills.
“He’s in a great deal of pain,” Netemeyer said.
Sanders was placed on administrative leave with pay on Aug. 24, nine days after the assault on Baker. Baker was pepper-sprayed after getting into a “pretty significant fight” with officers while resisting arrest on two outstanding felony warrants, Burton said Wednesday.
Sanders was one of three officers involved in the assault in Baker’s holding cell, though the two other officers were not placed on leave. Burton said the department investigated allegations that those officers failed to seek adequate medical care for Baker as well as violations of city policies related to the treatment of prisoners.
The incident was caught on security tapes from the holding cell. Burton said Wednesday that he thought Baker was asking for water just before Sanders and the two other officers entered the cell and pushed Baker forcefully into a wall.
Netemeyer filed a preservation request for the tapes from the cell, prompting the investigation, Burton said during the news conference. When internal affairs Capt. Dianne Bernhard fulfilled that request, she reviewed video surveillance of the cell and was concerned about what she'd seen. She then brought the video to Burton’s attention, which Burton said automatically prompted an investigation into the use of excessive force. He said the department tried unsuccessfully to contact Baker.