From The Intercept:
The sentencing hearing began with a surprise. Timothy Runnels, a 32-year-old former Independence, Missouri, police officer, sat at a large, rectangular defense table inside Courtroom 8B at the Charles Evans Whittaker Federal Courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, late last month. He was waiting to learn his fate after pleading guilty to a federal crime he committed almost two years ago, on September 14, 2014. Judge Dean Whipple had not yet watched the government’s key piece of evidence — a dashboard video — because he wanted to do so with attorneys present to make arguments. Today the video, which had never been played in any public setting, would be played in open court. Even the victim, 18-year-old Bryce Masters, had seen it only once.
As the video opens we see a gray Pontiac enter the frame, and Bryce’s dad, Matt, put his hand on his son’s knee. His mom, Stacy, folded her arms, clutching a tissue. Tears began to form in both his parents’ eyes, anticipating what everyone else in the room was about to see. Unfazed, Bryce leaned his 6-foot-1-inch frame forward, his eyes focused on the makeshift projector. He knew this piece of evidence absolved him of any wrongdoing.
In the video, Runnels pulls Bryce over and approaches the car. He tells Bryce to get out but doesn’t give a reason. Bryce repeatedly asks if he is under arrest. Runnels says, “You’re under arrest. Get your ass out of the car,” and attempts to pull him out by force. He then tases Bryce for 23 seconds, handcuffs him, drags the boy’s body behind the car, and deliberately drops him face first onto the asphalt road. Runnels may not have known it at the time, but Bryce was going into cardiac arrest. When the loud thud of the drop boomed throughout the courtroom, gasps echoed out. One woman looked down and covered her eyes with her hand. A man said, “Oh, my god.” A police officer with the Kansas City Police Department quickly brought his fist to his mouth, turned to the man next to him, and whispered, “Jesus.” Even those sitting behind the defendant — a few friends, his wife, his family — gasped, as if the recording revealed a truth about Runnels they had never considered.
Runnels faced a dire sentence that day — up to 10 years in federal prison. The catalyst for the crime was the 23-second Taser deployment straight into Bryce’s chest. That’s what caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark argued that the length of time that Runnels held down the Taser’s trigger was an aggravating factor. One pull on the trigger sent electricity shooting out for five seconds; Runnels had held it down the equivalent of four pulls. Even so, the prosecution agreed that the initial Taser use was reasonable and within common police practice. Runnels’s crime,…