In June 2016, Tyree Bell, then 15-years-old, was approached by two police officers while walking home from a relative’s house. Officers Peter Neukrich and Jonathan Munyan were responding to the call of three Black men toting guns in the area. One of the two officers chased one of the perpetrators by foot who attempted to flee and lost him.
Not long after, officers spotted Bell walking a mile away from where the perpetrators were. Despite being taller than and having completely different clothing from the initial suspect, Bell was still arrested. He was detained in jail for three weeks before police released him due to not having on the same attire as the suspect.
“It was a part of a national disgrace that has been allowed to persist among white police for forty years: cross-race identifications of Black males by white officers are often wrong,” Bell’s attorney Arthur Benson said, according to KCUR. “And they are often wrong because too many police departments do not train their officers that all Blacks do not look alike and how to make an eyewitness identification that is not tainted by racial stereotypes. Tyree Bell was a victim of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department’s failure to address this national outrage.”
Here’s more from NPR 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.”
Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina addressed the details of the settlement in an email.
“Regarding the settlement of the lawsuit in this matter, the Board of Police Commissioners have agreed to a settlement amount of $900,000 made payable to Mr. Bell and his attorney Arthur Benson representing $458,000 for attorney’s fees and costs and $442,000 for compensatory damages,” Becchina said.
“We are glad we reached a mutual resolution and we wish Mr. Bell and his family all the best.”