Kansas City Police to Pay $5M Settlement In 2019 Death of Unarmed Black Man; Officer Remains On the Force

The family of a man killed in 2019 by the Kansas City Police has reached a multi-million-dollar settlement with the city. The settlement is one of the largest sums paid out by the Kansas City Police Department to date.

The Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners worked with the attorneys for Terrence Bridges Jr.’s family and reached a $5 million settlement for his police-involved death. Bridges, then-30, was shot and killed on May 26, 2019, by a Kansas City police officer named Dylan Pifer, according to NPR.

Kansas City Police to Pay M Settlement In 2019 Death of Unarmed Black Man; Officer Remains On the Force
Terrence Bridges (Family Photo/Screenshot KCTV)

Officers responded to a 911 call that an alleged domestic violence altercation had transpired between a couple on the 7000 block of Bellefontaine Avenue.

Dispatch shared with the officers that a firearm was involved, and once arriving at the scene the officers thought Bridges was the suspect. Pifer tried to arrest him, but Bridges ran from him. The officer chased him and once close to him, he wound up shooting him in the chest.

According to KCTV, the cop shot Bridges because he thought he had a weapon in his sweatshirt and was pulling it out to use it on him.

Because it was alleged he had probable cause to believe he was in danger, the officer was not charged for the man’s death.

Multiple stories arose from the altercation. The Kansas City Police Department reported Bridges was resisting arrest. The family says there was no need to arrest him because he did not steal the car, a detail about the suspect connected to the 911 call, and he did not have a gun. From the family’s perspective, there was never a threat to Pifer.

The case was brought to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office to be investigated, and a grand jury ruled the incident did not require charges to be filed, despite the investigation proving no commands were given to the young man during the foot chase, and that he did not have a gun at any time during the incident.

In the audio released by the police department, the fatal single gunshot can be heard. Afterward, Pifer yells at Bridges, “Why’d you attack me, dude?”

A dying Bridges responds, saying, “I didn’t attack you.”

Public outrage called for the killing to be revisited, Pifer to be indicted and justice to be offered to Bridges and his family. But criminal charges never materialized.

Thus, the family, working with attorney Tom Porto, filed a civil lawsuit.

Porto said, “This Agreement represents the police department’s acknowledgment of the tragic and significant loss to the family of Terrence Bridges that this incident caused. Despite this tragedy, we recognize that police officers have difficult jobs and are frequently faced with making split-second life-or-death decisions. The family is grateful that they are now able to put this matter behind them.”

Pifer remains on the police force.

He has found himself connected to another altercation between a civilian and law enforcement. In 2020, a year after Bridges’ death, Pifer was on patrol with Sgt. Matthew T. Neal when they stopped a teenage boy driving in a car. Neal assaulted a 15-year-old boy, slamming him face-first into the pavement. As a result, Neal has left the force and last week plead guilty to third-degree assault in a criminal case.

For his use of excessive force, Neal was placed on four years’ probation. Pifer was not charged with any crime, and the boy’s family has not filed a civil rights violation lawsuit, which is still their option. Kansas City police commissioners agreed in January 2021 to pay $725,000 to settle an excessive use of force lawsuit in that case.

The money for the settlement will come from KCPD’s budget, which rings in at almost $269 million.

According to the agency, it allocates $191 million, 71 percent of that budget. to a general fund for legal settlements and other expenses.

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