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Witnesses question police use of stun gun during fight

A Western police officer’s use of his stun gun to subdue a suspect involved in a fight on campus has left multiple student witnesses claiming an overuse of force. The fight between two male students took place just before noon, Nov. 4, outside of the Blum Student Union.

Officers finish handcuffing the individual who had a stun gun deployed against him.
Officers finish handcuffing the individual who had a stun gun deployed against him.

Charges were filed by the MWSU Police Department against the two males involved in the fight, after one made contact with Police Chief Yvonne Meyer. The individual who made contact with Meyer was cited for assault of a law enforcement officer and both individuals were cited with fighting or riotous conduct to endanger another.

At press time, no charges have been filed by the Buchanan County prosecuting attorney’s office, according to MissouriCase.net.

Though specific accounts vary slightly, six student witnesses agree on the following series of events:

  1. Two individuals began fighting outside of Blum Student Union, one wearing a yellow shirt, one wearing a white shirt.
  2. Police Chief Yvonne Meyer exited Blum and stood between the two individuals fighting.
  3. The individual in yellow complied with Meyer’s demands to step back and get on the ground; the individual in white continued pushing Meyer in what appeared to be an attempt to continue the fight.
  4. A number of other officers exited Blum
  5. A police cruiser jumped the Downs Drive curb and drove through the grass to the Blum parking lot.
  6. An officer exited the vehicle, ran to the scene and at some point in time pulled out his stun gun.
  7. The officer drew his stun gun and shot the weapon at the individual in white.
  8. The individual in white immediately fell to the ground.
  9. Both individuals were placed in handcuffs.

Meyer says that the use of force by the officers throughout the entire incident was within their guidelines.

“We used a use of force that is not only in our policy, but is across the board within a use of force continuum,” Meyer said. “The subject [who the stun gun was used on] was not complaint. I would say documented non-compliant in four different instances.”

The incident report officer narrative states, “On 11-4-2015 at approximately 1155 Hours, Missouri Western Officers were dispatched to a Fight in Progress in Parking Lot G.”

Four eyewitnesses claim that the individual in white was not being aggressive at the time that the officer unholstered his stun gun. Two eyewitnesses suggest that from their vantage point, the use of a stun gun could have been warranted.

Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, believes that the use of a stun gun was justified.

“When an incident occurs where our officers are required to use force in response to a situation, the details of the incident are reviewed by Chief Meyer, as well as Tim Kissock, our Risk Manager, and myself as the Vice President to whom the Police Department reports,” Fessler wrote in an email response. “Both Tim and I have reviewed the details of the case and believe our officers responded appropriately.”

However, Michael Smith, SGA Director of Student Affairs, who saw and heard the fight and the police response firsthand, believes that the officer’s use of a stun gun was unjustified.

“[The officer] ran up the grass, with his taser in hand, proceeded to say, ‘Stop, or I will tase you,’ and no more than two seconds afterwards, proceeded to tase him in the back when he was not being aggressive towards the officer,” Smith said. “Previously, he was trying to push through [Police Chief Yvonne Meyer]. He did not hit the officer. He was only trying to push through her.”

Junior Graham Deckard and junior Chris Miles both saw the incident occur while they were located inside of the food court in Blum. Though they could not hear, they both separately stated that the use of a stun gun was “excessive force.”

“He wasn’t compliant as the officer [who deployed his stun gun] was running up, but as soon as the officer got there… he immediately got real compliant,” Deckard said. “The tasing wasn’t really in an effort to contain the situation as much as excessive force after the situation had already been contained.”

Miles not only believes that the use of a stun gun was unjustified, but that Meyer had the fight under control whenever the officer who deployed his stun gun had arrived.

“Even by herself, she could have controlled everything,” Miles said. “By the time that the second officer [the officer who deployed his stun gun] got there and made his presence known, the situation had de-escalated.”

Though the first four witnesses explicitly stated that the use of a stun gun was unwarranted,  SGA Executive Vice President Brad Stanton and SGA President Ida Haefner suggest that the misuse of force argument is unclear.

“I don’t really feel like we’re qualified to make that judgment,” Stanton said.

Haefner suggests that because of their inability to hear the situation, their judgment is less accurate.

“You can’t really say much on ‘visual wise’ because I don’t remember his body movements,” Haefner said. “I think it kind of comes down to what words were being said.”

Haefner also suggests that the body movements of the individual in white may have changed the intent of his actions.

“He [the individual in white] had put up his hands when he [the officer who deployed his stun gun] pulled out his taser,” Haenfer said. However, Haefner could not recall whether the individual still had his hands up when he was shot with the stun gun.

The Griffon News will continue to update with more details regarding the case.

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