It all began when police responded to a report of three black teenagers brandishing a firearm near 91st Street and Marsh Avenue around 4pm. Within minutes, officers arrived on the scene and found the teens. The cops sounded their siren and two of the teens laid down on the ground in surrender. The arresting officer was officer Peter Neukirch. The third teen fled the scene and officer Jonathan Munyan took off in a foot chase. Around that same time an innocent teen by the name of Tyree Bell had just finished his day at summer school and was heading home.
15-year-old Bell, phone in hand, attempted to check in with his mom when a police car pulled up beside him.
“Come here, bud,” an officer said as he exited the vehicle. “Put your phone on my hood for a second. You got any guns or anything on you?”
“No,” Tyree replied knowing he did nothing wrong.
“For right now, I’m going to detain you while we figure this out,” the officer said. The cop placed Tyree in handcuffs and leaned him against the car.
“What am I being detained for?” Bell asked.
“Right now you’re being detained because you match the description of a party that was in a foot chase with our officers that was carrying a gun. So as long as I can verify that it’s not you with him then I’m gonna cut you loose and you’re gonna be gone.
“You’ll be gone here in just a second.”
But the innocent teen was not detained for just a second. He complied. He did not resist. He was not combative. Instead a culmination of events found him stuck behind bars for weeks.
As the teen waited for the “mistake” to be cleared up, arresting officer Peter Neukirch arrived on the scene and identified Bell as the teen that fled. According to the officer, Bell was the juvenile with the gun.
According to the dashcam footage, Neukirch tells Bell he almost got himself shot.
Apparently as long as you’re black you fit the description despite the discrepancies in the description.
When Munyan took off after the third perp, he shouted into his radio at 4:17pm: “Black male. Gun. Blue shorts.” Less than a minute later dispatchers provided a more detailed description.
“Party at large is going to be a black male, 17, 18 years of age … 5-10, thin, wearing white shirt, blue shorts, took off his shoes, was last seen running westbound from 92nd and James A. Reed, armed with a gun.”
When the officer laid eyes on the innocent teen, he observed that he was also thin, with dreadlocks and wearing a white T-shirt. Bell however, was 6 feet, 3 inches tall and was wearing black shorts with white stripes as well as shoes — a pair of sneakers — and showing no signs of having run a sub-seven-minute mile.
The officer is perfectly ok in stopping Bell and inquiring as to his whereabouts in the event the perp changed clothes BUT the lack of due diligence left Bell in jail for weeks.
After being ID’d by Neukirch, Bell was put in the patrol car and the officers “high-fived” each other. Bell was booked into the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center.
“I kind of thought I was going to get let off, because I knew that I didn’t do anything,” the innocent teen told the Star inside the Blue Ridge branch of the Mid-Continent Library, a mile from where he was apprehended.
Bell eventually was able to make contact with his mother and she rushed down to the detention center. When she arrived Detective Mattivi told her that there was video evidence of everything.
The question being asked by the innocent teen, his mother, and his attorney is why wasn’t the video evidence reviewed.
“So I’m wondering why he isn’t looking at it,” the mother said. “They had the proof and wouldn’t even take the time to look at it and confirm that it wasn’t my child.”
Rather than take into account their own evidence clearing Bell, officers ignored the footage and continued to claim the innocent teen was the bad guy.
Bell’s mother said she continued to call the detective over the next few weeks demanding he view the footage clearing her son. It didn’t happen.
“He wasn’t in a rush to get to it.”
In the meantime, Bell wasted away in a cell over something he didn’t do.
“I cried the first night,” he said. “Being stuck in a cell for a long amount of hours, that’s hard.”
The mother also struggled and blamed herself knowing her son was being held for something he didn’t do. The mother blames herself because when Bell was walking down the road, an unexpected errand drew her away from home and left Tyree locked out.
“If I was there to let my son into the house, none of this would have happened.”
The detective finally called Bell’s mother on June 29 informing her she could pick up her son. No apology was given.
“He was like, ‘You can come and get him, we’re releasing him,’” James said. “No apology or anything.”
The family is now suing arresting officers Neukirch and Jonathan Munyan, Detective John Mattivi, Police Chief Richard Smith and the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. The defendants are accused of unlawful arrest, negligent training and supervision and deprivation of Tyree’s constitutional rights.
The department’s spokesman, citing pending litigation, declined to comment. But in a court filing responding to the suit, police denied violating Tyree’s constitutional rights or sitting on evidence.
Bell is now a senior in high school. He started a club at Ruskin High School to encourage students to build stronger connections with their special needs classmates. He’s also become a mentor to younger teens who have had run-ins with the law. He’s aspiring to be a child psychologist. He is now apprehensive when he sees police or a police car.
“My attitude has changed toward the police. Every time I see a police officer or a police car, I feel like I’m in trouble. I don’t know how to really explain it, it’s just a feeling that I get. The police, I felt like they were there to comfort and support.
“I don’t feel that anymore.”