The scar on Mack Nelson’s face, claims in a lawsuit, came from the police.
In early August, he found himself at a gas station on Prospect Avenue when police shot another man to death.
He and other passersby were held in the station while Kansas City Police Department and Missouri Highway Patrol officers documented the scene.
Then things went sideways with Nelson and some of the officers. According to the police account, he had been belligerent. According to his account, and a lawsuit filed on his behalf, the police “put him face down” on the sidewalk and left him with that facial scar, a head injury, and PTSD.
He is now suing five officers he blames for his injuries and who he claims illegally detained him soon after one of their colleagues fatally shot a man. His lawsuit also alleges that those officers falsified their official reports of the incident.
Nelson’s attorney, John Picerno, said video taken by a passerby shows the interaction supports Nelson’s version of what happened that day.
“Do you really think this is the first time these officers have falsified a police report in their entire career?” said Picerno. “Do you think it all just happened now? Do you think this is…the first time that particular officer has ever used physical force against a suspect or citizen?”
Four of the five officers remain on active duty. The other officer is listed as John Doe, so it’s unclear if they still work in the force. Picerno said he downplays new KCPD police chief Stacey Graves’ pledges by promising reforms.
In a video statement Chief Graves spoke out about the fatal police beating of Tire Nichols, Graves applauded Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn Davis for quickly suspending and subsequently firing the officers involved. Graves said he met his command strength to underscore a “culture of accountability” for the Kansas City police.
“This responsibility comes with a duty to intervene if officers witness excessive use of force or a violation of someone’s constitutional or civil rights,” Graves said.
Picerno said his department showed no responsibility for what happened to his client.
“Don’t believe what they say. Believe in what they do,” she said. “Even in cases where they have video evidence, they are reluctant to discipline their own.”
When Nelson was free to exit the gas station following the police shooting, according to the lawsuit, he went outside to film the crime scene on his phone.
Nelson declined an interview about the lawsuit. But he told KCUR in November that he didn’t trust the highway patrol to have conducted a proper investigation because they hadn’t questioned him or any of the witnesses inside the gas station.
“So I decided to go on Facebook Live and record it,” Nelson told KCUR.
“I walked inside the perimeter for a good — I don’t know — eight, nine minutes and, you know, describing it,” he said. “I guess the officer heard me and… asked me to step back behind the tape, and I did exactly that.”
A police report into the incident said an officer asked Nelson out of police tape several times. Nelson complied, the report said, but when the officers left, he reportedly returned to the crime scene.
The lawsuit tells a different story. She claims that Nelson complied, he moved into a portion of the gas station parking lot unregistered by the police and continued to tape the scene. When an officer asked him to leave, the lawsuit says, Nelson backed down and tried to leave.
Another officer approached Nelson and attempted to arrest him, grabbing him from behind, knocking his phone out of his hand and finally throwing him to the ground, the lawsuit claims.
A police report states that Nelson “fell to the ground after jerking his arms away and attempting to get his body away from PO Frazier”. Another states that Nelson was “pulled to the floor”. Picerno said both claims are completely false.
KCPD officials said they were not commenting on the ongoing litigation. The Jackson County Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police could not be reached for comment.
Steve Young of the Kansas City Law Enforcement Accountability Project, or KC LEAP, was the viewer who recorded the interaction. Picerno said the video played a vital role in the lawsuit. He said it shows Nelson wasn’t resisting and clearly shows an officer throwing him to the ground.
Nelson said he passed out after the interaction and has little recollection of what happened next. Nelson said he suffered a deep cut on his head and possibly a concussion. An ambulance took him to a hospital, where he received stitches.
Nelson later faced criminal charges for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and trespassing. The police report said he refused to leave the hospital and was belligerent towards hospital security.
Nelson pleaded guilty to the charges. He served time in prison and on probation. During that time, he lost the car he lived in.
Picerno said he motioned to reverse Nelson’s guilty plea, but the Kansas City municipal attorney’s office opposed the motion, saying it did not have enough evidence to reverse Nelson’s guilty plea.
“The thin blue line exists, and those municipal court prosecutors, despite having the two false police reports, despite having the video, refused to budge on the two charges Mack was charged with and specifically resisting arrest.” Picerno said. .