Jury Sides With Police In Tasing Case Of Maryville, Missouri, Teen With Autism
The parents of a teenager with autism who was shot multiple times with a Taser after he stopped to tie his shoe on the lawn of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper have lost their lawsuit against the city of Maryville, Missouri, and two police officers.
The parents had sued for wrongful detention and excessive use of force. On Thursday, after a two-day trial and about 10 hours of deliberation, a federal jury of four men and three women found in favor of the officers. The jury declined to speak afterward.
The lawsuit was filed more than two years ago by Ernest J. Kramer and Ellas I. Kramer, the parents and legal guardians of Christopher Kramer, who was 18 when the incident occurred. Their attorney, Arthur Benson, had asked the jury to award them $2 million.
Benson said he was considering filing a motion for a new trial. He declined to comment further on the verdict other than to say that the Kramers “were obviously disappointed.”
In his closing argument on Wednesday, Benson told the jury that the police had no reason to detain Christopher Kramer, even after he turned and ran when they confronted him.
“It’s not criminal to go on someone’s lawn, to be in someone’s yard,” Benson said. “There was no criminal activity whatsoever.”
The officers’ attorney, David S. Baker, told the jurors that what happened wasn’t Kramer’s fault.
“He reacted the way he did because of his disability,” Baker told the jury. “But it’s also not the officers’ fault because they didn’t know about his disability.”
According to the lawsuit, Kramer was returning home from school one evening when he stopped on the edge of trooper Jim David Farmer’s yard to tie his shoelace.
Farmer approached him and asked, “Can I help you with something?”
Kramer, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 ½ years old, ran away. Farmer then called the Maryville Police Department and told them that Kramer had been heading toward his front door.
Responding, two Maryville officers caught up with Kramer as he was running and tried to block him with their patrol cars. They then gave chase on foot. Meanwhile, a third officer arrived and tackled Kramer.
Police body cam video introduced as evidence showed two of the officers ordering Kramer to stop resisting as he wailed and screamed that he wanted to go home. One of them then shot Kramer with his Taser at least twice.
Kramer managed to get to his feet and was shot with the Taser again. When he continued to struggle and wail, he was shot one more time. As he continued to wail, one of the officers began striking him in the legs with an expandable baton.
A fourth officer who had joined the fray stunned Kramer two more times before he was finally subdued and handcuffed.
The lawsuit originally named all four officers as well as the city of Maryville as defendants. But the two officers who came to the aid of their fellow officers were dismissed from the case, leaving only Maryville Public Safety Officer Seth Rucker and Nodaway County Sheriff’s Deputy Austin Hann as defendants.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. instructed the jury not to consider the parents’ claims against the city of Maryville, although it was unclear why he did so.
Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.