Federal regulation of bounty hunters promoted

Saturday, July 13, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The family of a man killed in a struggle with bounty hunters is mounting a campaign to pressure national leaders into creating a federal law regulating bounty hunters.

Ta'Mar J. Grant, 23, died June 13 when bounty hunters went to his mother's home to arrest his brother. The Jackson County medical examiner said he died of strangulation and chest compression, and ruled the death a homicide.

In a news conference at the home Friday, family members gathered near a makeshift shrine to Grant and said they hope to get a minimum of 1 million signatures during their campaign to create "T.J's law."

"Our goal is that no other mother, no matter what color, has to go through the pain that I am going through," said Grant's mother, Emily West. "We are going all the way with this, and I urge everyone to stand with us while we go."

Among the changes the family seeks:

Requiring that bounty hunters be licensed, trained and certified; making bounty hunters subject to the same laws as police officers; and strengthening punishments if someone is killed or injured while in bounty hunters' custody.

One of the bounty hunters involved in Grant's death, Michael J. Iiams of Lake Winnebago, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. He has pleaded innocent and was released on $50,000 bond.

Family members said Grant was put in a choke hold after he confronted the bounty hunters about arresting his brother at his mother's home. They say the bounty hunters threatened them and ignored Emily West's pleas to release Grant because he couldn't breathe.

The Rev. Sandra Weaver, a spokeswoman for the family, said it was appalling that none of the bounty hunters involved has missed a day of work. She said Iiams faces a maximum sentence of eight years in jail and could serve no jail time at all.

"Even police officers are suspended during an investigation if they kill someone in the line of duty," she said. "Something is wrong if people who, in the name of law enforcement, can kill somebody and then be out there walking the streets."

Supporting education

Steve Kreimer, executive director of the Professional Bail Agents of the United States in Washington, D.C., said his group strongly supports more education and regulation of bounty hunters.

He drew a distinction between professional bail agents, who are regulated and licensed by the states, and bounty hunters, who face few regulations in most states.

"We have always said, and we have testified in Congress, that those folks either have to be regulated or eliminated," Kreimer said. "We would stand side-by-side with this family in calling for more education and regulation."

But he said the group would not support a federal law because it believes states are better equipped to enact education programs and regulate bounty hunters in their areas.

Grant's family said it had contacted local, state and national representatives, as well as such black leaders as Jesse Jackson and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume. Weaver said the petition drive would be conducted at churches, beauty shops, bakeries, shopping malls and door-to-door.

She said supporters are already circulating throughout Missouri and committees have been formed in eight other states.

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