A 27-year-old woman suffered a serious injury Thursday morning when a Joplin police officer shot her with bean bags during a traffic stop that police say was related to an armed robbery call.
Cecily Stanek was taken to Freeman Hospital West with an injury to her thigh resulting in a significant loss of blood and requiring surgery, according to her family.
Police Capt. Will Davis said Stanek was a passenger in a truck police stopped about 5:30 a.m. near 20th Street and Moffet Avenue. He said the pickup truck matched the description of a vehicle that the suspect in an armed robbery was seen climbing into just minutes earlier at 21st Street and Connor Avenue.
The driver of the truck, the woman's 57-year-old father, Ron Stanek, was detained at the scene but later released without charges.
Police pulled over the truck occupied by Cecily Stanek and her parents in what Davis called a felony vehicle stop, police terminology for a high-risk stop related to a felony crime. He said Cecily Stanek was shot with a bean bag when she exited the passenger side of the truck and would not comply with commands. An officer whose name was being withheld made the decision "to deploy nonlethal force," Davis said.
Davis said he did not know how many times she was shot with bean bags. He said a use-of-force report was not yet available on the incident.
But Brandi Jones, Cecily Stanek's older sister from Texas, told the Globe that she learned from her mother following the incident that Cecily was shot three times and that the first bag tore through an artery in her thigh, causing a large loss of blood. Her mother told her that Cecily turned after the first shot and tried to climb back in the cab of the truck but was shot twice more before she could make it.
Jones said that, according to her mother, officers ordered Ron Stanek out of the truck before Cecily got out. He was complying with their orders while asking why they were being stopped. Jones said officers would not tell them why and that's when her sister opened the door and stepped out of the truck to ask why.
According to her mother, Jones said, olfficers issued no commands before shooting her sister with the bean bags.
Davis said police were reacting to the armed robbery of Shani Oliver, 53, which had just happened in the 1900 block of South Jackson Avenue. Oliver told police that a man approached her armed with a sword and demanded that she empty her purse. He stole two computer tablets from her and jumped into a truck matching the description of the Staneks' truck at 21st Street and Connor Avenue, according to Davis.
Davis said officers developed information during the traffic stop that placed Ron Stanek at the scene of the robbery. But he also acknowledged that police were able to eliminate him as the man who committed the robbery with the sword.
Davis said they have since identified a 47-year-old man as the primary suspect in the robbery and are looking for him in connection with the crime.
Davis declined to discuss if police believe Stanek witnessed the robbery or played some role in the crime, perhaps unwittingly. He emphasized that the matter remains under investigation.
Jones said police searched the Staneks' truck and did not find either the stolen computer tablets or a sword. She said if police actually believe they did not stop the wrong vehicle and injure an unarmed, innocent woman, why did they let her parents go without even taking them in for questioning? She thinks there was tacit acknowledgement that they had made a mistake in what they did with her sister after realizing the seriousness of her injury.
"They didn't make a 911 call. They didn't call for an ambulance," Jones said. "They put her in a squad car and took her to the hospital."
Davis said officers knew that Ron Stanek was not the robber with the sword and made the decision to release him out of sensitivity to his concern as a parent with the injury to his daughter.
Jones said her parents and sister had been homeless since being evicted last week from an apartment in Neosho. They had been sleeping in their truck the night in question in the neighborhood where the robbery took place. She said two of them woke up about 5 a.m. and needed to go to a restroom. They drove to a nearby convenience store and used the restrooms there before driving back through the neighborhood and seeing several police cars at a house there.
The vehicle stop was made moments later when officers spotted their truck.