KCPD sergeant indicted for felony assault in excessive force incident
A Kansas City Police Department officer has been indicted with assault connected to a November 2019 incident involving a 15-year-old. The charges were announced in a news conference with county prosecutor Jean Peters Baker on Friday.
Sgt. Matthew T. Neal was charged with third-degree assault, which is a felony. Peters Baker said that the juvenile victim was injured when Neal kneed him in the back of the head and neck, forcing his head to the pavement. Echoing several other high profile cases, the indictment says the teen protested “I can’t breathe” during the incident, which left him with a gash to the head and broken teeth.
The incident took place around 10:40 p.m. on November 14, 2019. According to the grand jury affidavit, the officers saw two teens at a 7-Eleven and attempted to stop them, claiming that they suspected a robbery might occur. The 16-year-old driver initially fled but stopped in the parking lot of a nearby fast-food restaurant. Both teens exited the vehicle and knelt with their hands above their heads.
The 15-year-old passenger, who was unarmed, was on his stomach and cooperating with officers when the incident occurred. While Neal and another officer were lifting him, Neal forced his knee into the victim’s neck, pushing his face into the ground and pinning him to the pavement with enough force to break the teen’s front teeth. The teen was taken to Children’s Mercy Hospital for treatment after other officers saw his injuries.
Although the incident occurred in November, a grand jury did not hear the case until June 12. Peters Baker said that she was first made aware of the incident in spring 2020. She called for an independent system for such incidents to be reported, and asked for the public to contact the prosecutor’s office directly with reports of misconduct or excessive force by officers.
KCPD Chief Rick Smith issued a statement following the prosecutor’s news conference. Smith stated that the incident was originally investigated by the Office of Community Complaints and the Internal Affairs Unit. Following internal review, the case was forwarded to county and federal prosecutors as well as the FBI, which is the standard protocol. Smith did not address how long the process took.
According to Smith, Neal is an 18-year veteran of the department, currently assigned to the patrol bureau. He has been on administrative leave since the internal investigation was completed and will remain on leave until the case is settled.
The president of the KCPD chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, also issued a statement, which reads:
The Lodge has been made aware of charges filed against Sgt. Matthew Neal. The Lodge supports Sgt. Neal and believes that his actions were justified under the totality of the circumstances. We will support our brother as this matter proceeds to court, where we are confident that he will be ultimately exonerated.