A disabled man who sued the Kansas City Police Department, saying he was denied access to his walker while being arrested during a traffic stop seven years ago, was paid $250,000 to settle the claim earlier this year, public documents show.
In his lawsuit, 52-year-old Mark Wynn of Kansas City said a fall during the arrest left him reliant on using a wheelchair or scooter to get around.
Wynn sued the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners in 2020 for civil claims including alleged violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, saying he had a preexisting spinal cord injury and recent back surgeries that made walking difficult when he was pulled over in October 2015. Wynn alleged he was forced to exit his vehicle at gunpoint and walk backwards despite informing the arresting officer of his condition.
During the arrest, Wynn fell to the ground while handcuffed and stayed there between 30 and 45 minutes before being picked up by police officers and put in a patrol car — a claim a federal judge later found was affirmed by KCPD dashcam video.
The Star learned of the development in the case through an open records request seeking information about legal settlements involving the department that were paid out between January and September 2022. Over the past nine months, there were 14 legal settlements totaling $1.8 million, not including 22 others involving vehicular claims, according to information the newspaper obtained through its Missouri Sunshine request.
Arrest during traffic stop
When Wynn was stopped by Kansas City police on Oct. 17, 2015, he was recovering from a serious workplace injury that happened in 2011 and resulting surgical procedures that required the use of a walker, his lawyer said in court filings.
His vehicle operated solely on hand controls.
On that day, Wynn had met a former romantic partner outside of a convenience store and the two argued, according to the lawsuit. She then called police and reported that Wynn had pointed a gun at her, a claim Wynn denies.
Kansas City police officers were subsequently notified by dispatch of a disturbance involving a person armed with a gun, with the description of Wynn’s vehicle. Around that time, KCPD Officer Jeremy Gragg saw the reported vehicle and pulled Wynn over near the Interstate 435 ramp at 87th Street.
Gragg commanded Wynn to stop the engine, show his hands and exit the vehicle, all directives Wynn followed. He exited the vehicle himself, while telling Gragg he was unable to walk. But Wynn complied, slowly walking backward while using the car to maintain his balance.
When Wynn was patted down, no firearm was found. His arms were handcuffed behind his back as he advised Gragg multiple times that he could not stand without a walker.
Wynn fell, and police officers eventually picked him up and arranged the handcuffs so his arms were at his front. He was later released and told he was “only receiving a ticket,” according to court documents.
Defense lawyers for KCPD admitted in court filings that Gragg did instruct Wynn to walk to the back of his car, handcuffed him and that Wynn warned he would fall without assistance from his walker. They also admitted Wynn fell during that time, though they denied that the fall caused Wynn serious injury or that KCPD broke any laws.
Further, they argued Gragg was shielded by qualified immunity from claims of excessive force. On the topic of ADA compliance, lawyers noted exemptions concerning the accommodation of disabilities in situations where the safety and security of officers could be at risk.
In late May, the police board unanimously agreed to settle the lawsuit. The case was dismissed in August.
The settlement for Wynn is the largest KCPD has agreed to since March.
Earlier this year, the largest sum of 2022— $900,000 — was awarded in a case brought by Tyree Bell, who at 15 years old was wrongly arrested by Kansas City police in 2015 and spent three weeks in juvenile detention.