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In May of 2019, 30-year-old Terrance Bridges, a Black man, was shot and killed by Kansas City, MO, police officer Dylan Pifer. Pifer was never indicted by a grand jury for the killing, and he was allowed to return to active duty nine days after the shooting.
Just six months after Bridges died, Pifer was involved in another incident, according to police documents obtained by VICE News. This time, Pifer was accused of aggressively handcuffing a 15-year-old Black teenager and then restraining him while his partner Sergeant Matthew Neal slammed the boy’s face into the ground, breaking his teeth and requiring six stitches on his forehead.
In dashcam video from that night, reviewed by VICE News, the teenager is heard being handcuffed and saying, “I can’t breathe.”
Over 1,000 people have been killed by law enforcement in the United States over the last year, according to a database maintained by the Washington Post, and Kansas City has one of the highest rates of police killings in the country. And yet until last year, no KCPD officers had ever been criminally charged with killing or using excessive force on civilians.
The teenager and his mother filed a complaint against Pifer and Neal, for using excessive force at the time of arrest. At first, the complaint was sustained against both officers, but records show that the office of the police chief intervened, advising that the complaint against Pifer be dropped. No record of the incident will appear in Pifer’s personnel file.
It wasn't until the family’s lawyer, Tom Porto, brought evidence of the incident to the attention of the county prosecutor's office that an investigation into criminal charges began. Last week, Neal was charged with felony assault. There were no charges brought against Pifer.
Sean McCauley, the union lawyer representing Neal, says that Neal will plead not guilty and “plans to mount a vigorous defense.” Neal is currently suspended pending an internal disciplinary process.
Kansas City Police Department would not comment on Pifer’s involvement in the Bridges shooting or in M.R.’s alleged assault. Pifer could not be reached for comment.
Terrance Bridges is just one of at least six Black men who have been killed by KCPD officers over the last three years — with little consequence.
Officer Pifer was called to the scene of a domestic violence dispute just after midnight on May 26, 2019. The neighbor who called 9-1-1 told the dispatcher that Bridges was armed. Officer Pifer saw Bridges pull his hands out from the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt, “as if presenting a weapon,” as he later said in a statement. Pifer shot Bridges once in the chest.
An ambulance took Bridges to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. There was no gun.
“They didn't even give him a chance. They didn't tell him to freeze or nothing,” said Rotonya McGee, who drove that night from Chicago to Kansas City when she heard about her son. “They gave no commands for him to do. He just took his life.”
McGee described her son as a family man who loved to cook, dance, and crack jokes. He and his girlfriend had been planning to move back to Chicago. “Thanks to Kansas City Police Department, I’ll never see my son again,” she said. “They just broke my heart so bad.”
Terrance Bridges now joins the list of names called out by protesters in Kansas City, where, following the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, many residents are reckoning with their own city’s fraught policing tactics.
Cover: Terrance Bridges in a photo taken on May 19, 2010, days before he was shot and killed by Kansas City Police. (Photo courtesy of Tierra Cox)