Topeka, Kansas, resident Arthur Morris was having a cigarette on his back porch when the police arrived, saying they were answering a 911 call. Morris had no idea what was going on as he was thrown to the ground while an officer landed a series of blows.
Morris and his girlfriend, Jeanie Becerra, were hauled in front of a judge and convicted of assaulting an officer, disobeying an officer, disturbing the peace and interfering with law enforcement. The incident happened in 2014, but the body cam footage from an officer was only released this month, the Kansas City Star reports. Even more disturbing, the Topeka Police Department didn’t give the video to prosecutors until an hour before the trial — the defense team never saw the footage.
In the video, Morris yells, “I didn’t do nothing wrong” while the officer hits him; throughout the video, he yells for Becerra to “get the camera.” Eventually, he’s led away in handcuffs.
A legal adviser later suggested that the judge look at the video and reevaluate the case. He said that the department knew about the video more than a month before the trial. He also noted that the officers had no reason to confront Morris and that the 911 call that they were responding to was actually a hang-up — when police arrived, they told Morris that his neighbors called and complained that he and Becerra were yelling at each other. In the end, the case was overturned because the officers had no probable cause for detaining Morris.
None of the officers faced any criminal charges, though the one who is seen in the video punching Morris later resigned from the force. The other two cops who were on the scene both returned to normal duty.
In a settlement, the city of Topeka paid Morris $40,000 but the Star notes that these types of settlements are often carefully worded so that the city does not accept any guilt or liability.
The footage was first obtained by the Topeka Capital-Journal, who filed multiple open records requests, which were denied before the police department finally released the video. Police Chief Bill Cochran told the Capital-Journal, “I think that one of the things that needs to be kept in mind here is all the people involved in this process are no longer.” He noted that the officer resigned after the incident. He added, “Unacceptable behavior is not tolerated going forward, and that’s, I think, our main stance that we want to make known to the public and everybody.”