As his teenage daughter lay dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a Joplin, Mo., man and his son were pepper sprayed by local police and taken to jail, where they were handcuffed to a bench for being upset.
On March 17, 16-year-old Brook Russell took her own life with a single gunshot wound to the head in a park just a few blocks from her home. When her mother, Julissa Russell, became worried on that fateful Sunday evening because the teen didn’t return from a run, she went looking for her daughter. Shortly after, Julissa Russell frantically called her husband, Kevin Russell.
“I got a call from my wife and she was screaming, I couldn’t even understand her,” Kevin Russell told KSPR. “I knew something was wrong, I never heard her scream like that, and I said ‘Julissa please slow down,’ and I heard ‘gun,’ I heard ‘blood.'”
Moments later, Kevin Russell and his son Brant, Brooke’s brother, arrived at the park and frantically sought help.
“I remember saying, ‘Oh my God.’ I threw my phone down while I was on with 911 and I ran to her. I checked for a pulse but didn’t feel a pulse and there was just a little mark, I really couldn’t tell, the back of her head,” Kevin said. “And I looked into her eyes and her eyes were halfway open like she was sleeping with her eyes open.”
When emergency personnel arrived on the scene, the understandably upset family hoped that there was some chance Brooke’s life would be saved, but the teen’s condition and the entire situation rapidly took a turn for the worse.
“To me, time was everything. I was going, ‘Let’s go, get her to the hospital, hurry up, hurry up,'” Kevin Russell told KSPR.
The father said that things then became much worse.
The first responder turned away from Brooke to her father to ask what had happened. That’s when, as her father looked on in disbelief, the teen’s body rolled off the gurney on which she had been placed.
Next, the family alleges, some badged, pepper spray-wielding thugs saw the need to intervene.
“I started screaming and said, ‘Do your f-ing job, get her to the hospital,’ and the EMT put his finger in my face and said, ‘Calm down, sir.’ I was screaming, ‘Please get her to the hospital.’ And right about that time a police officer ran up on the sidewalk and I saw Brant go down.”
The father and son were quickly pepper sprayed by police and arrested.
“I was on the pavement, I couldn’t breathe and another officer put a knee in my back and told me to get up and he said if I didn’t get up he was going to Tase me,” Brant Russell said of the takedown.
As their loved one perished, the men — charged with assault, disturbing the peace and obstruction — spent the next three hours handcuffed to a bench in the city’s jail.
Brooke is dead; her family members can’t change that. But they desperately would like to have their names cleared. Unfortunately, there is evidently no room for compassion in this case.
“I didn’t assault anybody, I didn’t threaten anybody, I didn’t obstruct justice,” the grieving father told local media.
While Kevin Russell insists that all he did was shout at first responders when his daughter’s lifeless body hit the ground, the city’s cops and prosecutors disagree.
Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts said the incident was immediately reviewed and that the officer involved was not found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“What I’ll tell you is that the conduct that’s alleged is directly contradictory to our values, our mission statement, our code of ethics,” the chief said. “Those are not the things we engage in.”
There is an incident report; but, according to the local news station, it has not yet become public record. And the police say they can’t say much about the event until the case works its way through the courts.
“I would just like the charges to go away. I want the reports reported correctly. I know they’re not going to do that but I hate that there’s something in formal writing that says things that we did that we didn’t do on the worst night of our life,” Kevin Russell said.
But for now, prosecutors have only one deal on the table for the father whose life has been turned upside down: Plead guilty to assault and take anger management classes.