KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two Kansas City, Missouri, police officers have been taken off patrol after being charged Friday with misdemeanor assault after an excessive force investigation.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced charges against Matthew Brummett, 37, and Charles Prichard, 47, on Friday, which were filed after a hearing before a Jackson County grand jury in connection to a May 24, 2019, incident outside of a Kansas City beauty supply store.
Brummett and Prichard are accused of injuring Brianna Hill by slamming her face against a concrete sidewalk; kneeing her in the face, torso and ribs; and forcing her arms over her head while cuffed.
"You've seen the videos and you look at the videos and there's only one conclusion," attorney David Smith, who represents Hill's family, said.
Peters Baker said in a statement her office presented the case before the grand jury after KCPD investigators declined to provide the prosecutor’s office a probable cause statement.
“This case is particularly disappointing that my office was prevented from filing the charge independent of a Grand Jury,” Baker said in a release. “Several years ago, my office shifted our policy so we only engaged the grand jury on cases where a credibility determination must be made. This policy change was in the interest of greater transparency because state law shrouds grand jury proceedings in secrecy.”
Attorneys for Brummett and Prichard, who received the KCPD Medal of Valor in 2018, issued a statement Friday after the charges were publicized through the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99:
Officers Matthew Brummett and Charles Prichard were made aware of the misdemeanor charges late today related to their arrest of Brianna Hill on May 24, 2019. Both officers have fully cooperated with the Department during the entire investigation. They maintain that the force they used was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. They vehemently dispute the basis of these charges and believe they will be ultimately exonerated in Court.
KCPD Chief of Police Rick Smith announced late Friday that he has placed Brummett and Prichard on "administrative assignment until the outcome of the proceeding" in a statement.
He said he takes his obligation "to hold officers accountable when the facts call for it" seriously, but noted that a KCPD internal investigation found "no probable cause to conclude the officers broke the law."
Peters Baker took exception to the department's handling of the investigation and another incident in which a KCPD officer shot and killed a civilian in letter to Smith last month. She alleges that KCPD has refused to cooperate as her office sought to review the cases for charges by not providing probable cause statements when requested.
"The prosecutor's office asked for the department to issue a probable cause statement," David Smith said. "It happens every day. Whether the officers think there's really a crime or not, they do this ... and they refused. They made the prosecutor go to a grand jury. That's absurd. Chief Smith should resign."
Chief Smith said KCPD submitted the entire case file of the investigation "to federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the county prosecutor" and asked "everyone to keep an open mind and let the fact-finding process go forward."
Fraternal Order of Police President Brad Lemon also issued a statement, calling the charges "unjustified" and accusing the prosecutor's office of "a politically motivated prosecution that is unfortunately becoming all too common place across our country."
Lemon said KCPD investigated the incident and "determined that the force used was appropriate and reasonable under the circumstances."
He said that investigation determined that Hill injured herself by "purposefully" striking her head against the concrete, an action the officers tried to stop by restraining her.
"Importantly, the arrestee never filed a complaint against the officers or requested medical attention," Lemon said in his statement.
"The FOP will focus all of its resources in supporting these officers, and when the facts are finally presented, they will show that this prosecution is extremely misguided, constitutes an abuse of power, and is completely unjustified," Lemon concluded in his letter.
Meanwhile, the family hopes charges against Brummett and Prichard will be upgraded at some point.
"I'm thrilled there was an indictment for a misdemeanor," David Smith said. "I believe going forward there will be indictment for a felony. That's what these officers deserve."
Read the full statement from Smith:
I was informed today that two officers from the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department were indicted by a Jackson County grand jury. As Chief of Police, it’s my job to hold officers accountable when the facts call for it, and I believe my record as Chief shows how seriously I take that obligation.
In the current matter, involving misdemeanor charges against two officers, I’ve placed the officers on administrative assignment until the outcome of the proceedings. Investigators determined that there was no probable cause to conclude the officers broke the law. That is why our department did not submit a “probable cause” affidavit to the prosecutor.
However, we did submit the entire file to federal prosecutors, the FBI, and the county prosecutor. We do that in every matter where someone could possibly allege a civil rights violation.
All of us want justice. I ask everyone to keep an open mind and let the fact-finding process go forward.
Read Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99 President Brad Lemon's full statement: