Black teen receives $900K, apology in settlement with police over wrongful arrest
Tyree Bell was 15 when he was arrested by Kansas City officers in 2016 and held for three weeks for a crime he did not commit.
A teenager in Kansas City has been granted nearly a $1 million settlement after he was arrested and detained for three weeks without charge for a crime he did not commit.
The $900,000 settlement to resolve Tyree Bell’s federal lawsuit was approved by the Kansas City Police Department, but it still needs to be signed off on by a federal judge.
On June 8, 2016, at the age of 15, Bell was walking home from a relative’s house when he was stopped by police. According to a report from KCUR, officers Peter Neukrich and Jonathan Munyan were responding to a call that three Black males were playing on a corner with guns.
When the officers arrived, one of the males reportedly began running in the opposite direction. The patrolmen chased the suspect, but he eluded them. Just moments later, they saw Bell a mile away and stopped him.
Bell was taller than the suspect, wearing his hair differently and entirely different clothes. However, he was still taken into custody and kept for a 24-hour “investigative hold.”
The teenager was held for three weeks without being charged. He was only released after detectives watched patrol car videos where it was apparent that his clothing and appearance did not match the initial suspect.
“It was a part of a national disgrace that has been allowed to persist among white police for forty years: cross-race identifications of Black males by white officers are often wrong,” said Bell’s attorney, Arthur Benson. “And they are often wrong because too many police departments do not train their officers that all Blacks do not look alike and how to make an eyewitness identification that is not tainted by racial stereotypes. Tyree Bell was a victim of the Kansas City Police Department’s failure to address this national outrage.”
Bell initially sued the individual officers, but that case was dismissed due to qualified immunity. A federal appeals court reinstated the suit in October 2020, finding that Neukrich and Munyan did not have probable cause to arrest Bell. A jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict after a trial last year, and a mistrial was declared.
The case was scheduled to go to trial again on Monday, Feb. 28, but that proceeding has been canceled due to the pending settlement.
“Regarding the settlement of the lawsuit in this matter, the Board of Police Commissioners have agreed to a settlement amount of $900,000 made payable to Mr. Bell and his attorney Arthur Benson representing $458,000 for attorney’s fees and costs and $442,000 for compensatory damages,” police spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina said. “We are glad we reached a mutual resolution and we wish Mr. Bell and his family all the best.”
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