Officer pleads guilty to violating civil rights after leaving teen in a coma
Last week, a former Independence police officer pleaded guilty to violating the constitutional rights of a minor in his custody. He faces prison time and a fine for this violation.
Bryce Masters (l), pictured here with his mother, remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday, according to a statement released by the family, as questions swirled about how a confrontation with police so severely threatened his health. Photo courtesy of the family.
By Andrew Emett NationofChange
A former Independence police officer pleaded guilty on Friday to violating the constitutional rights of a minor after physically abusing the high school student during a traffic stop and leaving him in critical condition. Although the former officer initially claimed that his actions were justified, witnesses and cell phone video revealed multiple inconsistencies with his version of events. According to federal prosecutors, the cop used excessive force to subdue the student even though the teen did not pose a threat.
On the afternoon of Sept. 14, 2014, Officer Timothy Runnels pulled over 17-year-old Bryce Masters because his li-cense plate matched a plate wanted for a traffic warrant. According to the police, Masters refused to cooperate with Officer Reynolds and resisted arrest.
“I believe he did crack the window but did not roll it down any further. He was just being completely uncooperative with the officer,” alleged Sgt. Darrell Schmidli. “The driver refused to exit the vehicle. A struggle ensued. A Taser was deployed by the officer. The driver was finally removed out of the car. A struggle ensued once he was moved out of the car.”
“There was a wrestling match behind the vehicle where he resisted,” stated Maj. Terry Storey of the Independence Po-lice Department.
But according to witness statements and video footage, Officer Runnels’ account of the incident is full of inaccuracies. After inviting Masters over to play Xbox, 17-year-old Curtis Martes opened his front door to find his friend being pulled over by a patrol car. Officer Runnels approached Masters and ordered him to roll down his window.
“I hear him say from my porch, he’s like, ‘I can’t roll down my window it’s broke’,” recalled Martes. “He doesn’t have the cable that allows the electric window to work.”
When Officer Runnels asked Masters to exit the vehicle, Masters began to record the incident on his cell phone.
They have been sent key documents and speculations by Fisher’s independent investigation, which includes investigating the Waller County Jail breakfast order, which may be critical in the case. It is routine to order inmate’s meals one day in advance.
“The sheriff goes through some detail pointing out that on the table beside her bed are sandwiches wrapped in cellophane and points out that this was her dinner that she didn’t eat from Sunday night.
He adds, “If she didn’t eat her breakfast, then the container wasn’t open, it should have been on the table with the sandwiches or on her bed. The video is good enough to count the number of boxes on that cart.” On the video, it shows a male officer serving inmates breakfast at 6:34am but it’s indicated that Bland refuses her meal. The video is also not clear that there is any actual exchange between the two without audio.
Another observation in review of the cell 95 was the odd oversized trash-can. During the media tour of Bland’s cell, the photo clearly shows a brown paper bag in which an untouched sandwich is still inside along with a styrofoam cup, an opened book laying on the bed along with an unused transparent trash bag hanging off the side of the black trash can. The sheriff informed the media that the janitorial service had come into the cell to replace the trash bag.
Fisher said this is a major amateur move, “The sheriff said janitor came in to replace the bag, so you better tell the media before you present it; that the cell was the crime scene and has not been altered. If the janitorial services came in, why is the cell not cleaned up? Why are there day old sandwiches still on her nightstand?,” he ponders.
According to the account of events—this is purely speculation. But, it raises grave concerns and the Waller County District Attorney’s office is taking each inquiry quite serious. The most incriminating evidence may be the trash bag used as a ‘hanging’ tool to allegedly precipitate Bland’s death. Apparently, Bland double tied the trash bag to create the ligature hanging it from the 2 inch bar supporting the privacy partition separating the toilet area within the cell. The Boy Scout signature style knot would require the skills of someone who has the ability to tie a sturdy and strong knot.
According to the Custodial Death Report, Waller County Jail officials contacted Texas Ranger Ellison who arrived at 10:37am for a briefing, then entered Bland’s cell at 10:39am. At 10:45am Justice of the Peace, Judge Karisch was notified, arriving Waller County Jail at 11:39am.
The Texas Rangers is a unit of the Department of Public Safety and currently working with the F.B.I. but Fisher has his misgivings of the elite group’s fairness in this investigation. Based on his experience working on the Rodney Reed case, an African American inmate on death row charged with the Capitol murder of Stacey Stite he has reason for his doubts. Fisher alleges the Texas Rangers are behind framing Reed and should be investigated regarding the mysterious self-inflicted death of a detective that was close to bringing forth evidence to implement Officer Jimmy Fennell. The detective was the former roommate of the unidentified Ranger.
Furthermore, the medical examiner’s assessment of marijuana found in Bland’s system may allegedly be connected to calming down a major seizure, according to Fisher’s account. His speculation leads to the possibility that the slamming of Bland’s head to the ground by Officer Encinia may have cause Bland to later have an epileptic seizure inducing a coma. “They may have attempted treatment of her off the books without notifying a doctor. Since it was up for such a big debate, it’s implied that marijuana can reduce a seizure,” Fisher said. It is a farfetched measure but one that Fisher doesn’t put past the Waller County Jail officials to save face in an incredibly disastrous situation.
According to David Fisher, he’s shared his conclusions with the independent committee, the president of the Houston NAACP Chapter and has made several attempts to contact the Bland family attorney, Cannon Lambert without success.
As it stands, the media coverage continues and speculations are being sorted through. The hope that there is ‘fair’ and ‘due’ process for justice is the ultimate goal for everyone involved. At a recent dinner for the 60th Anniversary Commemorating the Death of Emmett Till, Geneva Reed-Veal shared her thoughts with attendees.
“All of this is injustice against Blacks, so when I tell you I did not know devastation until now, my ‘new normal’–I don’t like it. But I’m going to keep speaking for my baby. All of you mothers in here know what I’m talking about. Today, over a month later—we still don’t have what we asked for,” Sandra Bland’s mother said. “This has got to stop. I’m not going to be silent—I’m going to continue to talk.”