The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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January 13, 2014

Charges dropped in family’s dispute with police

A special prosecutor has dropped misdemeanor charges against a Joplin father and son arising from a dispute with police and paramedics after a family member’s suicide.

James Nichols, a special prosecutor from Lamar, had the charges against Kevin Russell, 44, and Brant Russell, 22, dismissed last week in Joplin Municipal Court.

The Russells were facing counts of assault, obstruction and peace disturbance in connection with an incident the night of March 17 at the intersection of Third Street and Virginia Avenue after 16-year-old Brooke Russell shot herself in Roanoke Park.

Family members, who found her in the park, took the severely wounded girl to that location to meet an ambulance crew that took her to Freeman Hospital West, where she died. An exchange of words with the paramedics and the first police officer to arrive on the scene culminated with the officer pepper-spraying and arresting the father and son.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Kevin Russell told the Globe on Monday.

The Russells have maintained that they were sprayed and arrested without cause. They were still in police custody when the girl died two hours later at the hospital.

The father declined any other comment on the case.

Nichols, who was appointed special prosecutor when City Prosecutor Tricia Gould recused herself from the case in December, did not return a call seeking comment on why the charges were dismissed.

William Fleischaker, the attorney representing the Russells, said he received copies of Nichols’ motions to dismiss the charges early last week. The motions did not provide any stated reason for dismissal, he said.

“He reviewed the facts objectively and apparently found the charges should be dismissed,” Fleischaker said.

Internal review

AN INTERNAL BOARD of the Joplin Police Department reviewed the use-of-force incident involving Kevin and Brant Russell and Cpl. Austin Wolf, and decided that Wolf responded appropriately.

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