Tyree Bell was 15 years old in 2016 when he was stopped and arrested by Kansas City, Mo., police for a crime he didn’t commit. He spent three weeks in jail before the police realized he wasn’t who they were looking for.
Bell and his mother filed a lawsuit in 2017 against two white Kansas City police officers, Peter Neukrich and Jonathan Munyan, city officials, and the police department. The filing accused them of unlawful arrest, violating Bell’s civil rights, and negligent training and supervision, according to the Kansas City Star.
The case was dismissed in 2019 by a judge who decided the officers have “qualified immunity.” However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reopened the case in 2020 and it went to trial earlier this month.
Now, the Star reports the case has resulted in a mistrial because the jury cannot come to a consensus. On Wednesday, Bell’s attorney Arthur Benson said the family will be moving forward with a new trial.
If you aren’t familiar with Bell’s case, it’s just as egregious as you think it can be when it comes to a child being wrongfully arrested.
Officers Neukrich and Munyan were responding to a 911 call on June 8, 2016, after someone called to report three Black males playing with guns on a street corner. When the officers arrived, one of the young men began running away and tossed a gun over a fence while he was being pursued.
Here’s more from NPR in Kansas City:
One of the officers gave chase but lost sight of the suspect. About seven minutes later, another policeman saw Bell walking about a mile away and talking on his cell phone. Although he was considerably taller than the suspect, wore his hair differently, wore shorts, shoes and socks that were different from those of the suspect and was breathing normally, Bell was placed on a 24-hour “investigative hold.”
A juvenile court judge later determined there was probable cause to detain Bell for unlawfully carrying a gun and fleeing from officers. He was detained in jail for three weeks.
Bell was released after a detective watched the patrol car videos from his arrest and concluded that his clothing and appearance did not match those of the suspect.
“Fifteen-year old Black males walking home from school in the summer wearing dark shorts and a white tee shirt are not all criminal suspects to be arrested and jailed for three weeks,” Benson said in an email when the case was reopened, according to NPR. “They do not all look alike, even though two untrained Kansas City police officers may think they do.”
However, that sentiment was not enough for the jury to come to an unanimous decision. Here’s what happened in court, from the Star:
During the trial, which began Oct. 4, evidence presented to the jury included incident reports, patrol car videos, police audio recordings and maps showing the distance between the area of the reported crime and the place where Bell was arrested. But the jury during its deliberations had several questions about the evidence presented, court records show.
“After considerable deliberation to reach a unanimous verdict we are unable to agree without violating some jurors’ conscience,” a note signed by the jury at 8:46 p.m. on Oct. 8 said. “Therefore we respectfully request to be released as jurors in this case.”
At this point, I think we would all like to see what evidence is keeping the Bell family from winning this case.