Joplin pays $5,000 to man who claimed police abused him

Sunday, July 20, 2008

JOPLIN, Mo. -- The city of Joplin recently paid $5,000 to a 25-year-old black man who was struck in the face by a white police officer while he was handcuffed, according to a newspaper report.

The incident took place at the city jail April 20 after David G. Neal was arrested for allegedly ramming a police car with his own car in downtown Joplin and resisting arrest.

The officer involved, Homer Knisley, 31, left the Joplin Police Department on Wednesday. His departure and the discipline of two other officers involved were disclosed Thursday in the wake of investigations by the department's internal affairs division and the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Police chief Lane Roberts told the Joplin Globe on Friday that Knisley and other officers were reacting to provocation by Neal.

"But the bottom line is: Even if everything [Knisley] says is true, you don't punch a guy in handcuffs," Roberts said. "There's no way to justify it."

The police department's internal affairs division began looking into the arrest and jailing of Neal before any complaints were received, he said.

Roberts said the investigation was turned over to the Jasper County prosecutor's office, and the prosecutor declined to file charges against the officer who hit Neal.

The names of the other officers involved and the disciplinary measures taken have not been made public. Roberts said they were disciplined for not reporting what they knew of the incident at the jail to their supervisors.

Roberts referred questions about the terms of the city's settlement with Neal and his attorney, Judd McPherson, to the city attorney and McPherson.

McPherson declined to discuss the terms, but assistant city attorney Peter Edwards said the amount of the settlement was $5,000. Edwards said the settlement was reached last week.

He said Neal gave full release to the city and Knisley for any claims arising from his arrest and what happened at the jail. No lawsuit had been filed, he said.

"The city saw a situation where we had liability, and we tried to take care of it early," Edwards said.

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