A federal judge has given the go-ahead to a lawsuit filed by the parents of an autistic teenager who was shot multiple times with a Taser after he stopped to tie his shoe on the lawn of a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper.
U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan this week denied dismissal motions filed by the five law enforcement officials named as defendants in the case by the parents of Christopher Kramer.
His parents sued both the trooper who called 911 after Kramer stopped on his lawn and the Maryville, Missouri, police officers who, responding to the call, chased Kramer down, shot him with their Tasers and beat him with a baton.
The lawsuit, which was filed in January, seeks actual and punitive damages for violations of Kramer’s constitutional rights and for wrongful detention.
Kansas City lawyer Arthur Benson, who represents the parents, declined to comment, citing the pending litigation. Attorneys for the defendants could not be reached for comment.
According to the lawsuit:
Kramer, then an 18-year-old student and member of his high school’s track team, was running 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 had been detained a few days earlier by police at Northwest Missouri State University and was frightened by the experience, ran away. Farmer yelled at him to stop, chased him and then called the Maryville Police Department and asked for their help. He told them that Kramer had been heading toward his front door.
Responding, two Maryville officers caught up with Kramer as he was running and unsuccessfully tried to block him with their patrol cars. They then gave chase on foot. Meanwhile, a third officer arrived and tackled Kramer.
Two of the officers ordered him to quit resisting as Kramer wailed and screamed. One of them then shot Kramer with his Taser three times, twice in his right shoulder and once in his buttocks.
Kramer managed to get to his feet and, while attempting to flee, was shot with the Taser again. Then, when he continued to struggle and wail, he was shot a fifth time.
As Kramer continued to cry, one of the officers began striking him in the legs with an expandable baton. Kramer, uncomprehending, cried, “I don’t want,” “want to go, please,” “got to go home, please,” and “go go, please.”
One of the officers struck him three times on the left side of the face with his fist. The police, now joined by a fourth officer who stunned Kramer twice more with his Taser, finally managed to subdue and handcuff him.
In seeking to have the case dismissed against him, Farmer claimed he was not responsible for what happened after he called police dispatch. Gaitan rejected that argument.
“Trooper Farmer, by identifying himself to dispatch, would have known that the dispatcher and police officers would treat his report with greater credence than that of a private citizen,” Gaitan wrote. “If Trooper Farmer hadn’t called 911, moreover, it is certain that none of the events that followed would have occurred.”
Gaitan also declined to dismiss the case against the other defendants in their individual, as opposed to official, capacities.
The defendants had argued that their stop of Kramer was consensual and only escalated after Kramer attempted to flee. They also argued that they had a reasonable suspicion that Kramer had trespassed on a fellow law enforcement officer’s property.
Gaitan rejected both contentions. Even if what Farmer reported to dispatch was true, he wrote, it “did not rise to the level of providing reasonable articulable suspicion of any criminal activity.”
Kramer graduated from high school last year and now works an hour a day at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Maryville.
Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.