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David Riley accepts $55,000 settlement from City of Columbia

CPD officer Chris Hessenflow resigned before Riley's appeal.

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Heather Finn/Graphic Designer

Feb. 1, 2013

Almost a year and a half after the Citizens Police Review Board hit a dead end with David Riley's police brutality claim, the city of Columbia has awarded Riley a $55,000 settlement.

Ex-Columbia police officer Chris Hessenflow allegedly beat David Riley when Riley resisted arrest outside of an Ultra Mart on Paris Road in 2009.

Riley was at the Ultra Mart buying beer. Hessenflow and Lt. Chris Kelley were working undercover in an alcohol compliance check at the time of the incident. Hessenflow said while he was approaching the store, Riley kicked a glass bottle, which drew his attention. Hessenflow said Riley then threatened to rob him, saying, “I’ll take your fucking wallet.”

Riley said his exact words to Hessenflow were “Take a fucking walk.”

Forensic phonetician Ryan Fox said during the appeal process that he agreed with Hessenflow on what was said based on the recording from the audio microphones the officers were wearing at the incident. There was a third microphone on a teenager who was helping with the officers’ alcohol compliance check. The teenager’s microphone was lost in the incident.

Video from the Ultra Mart’s security cameras shows the arrest. It appears that, after the verbal altercation between the two men, Hessenflow drew his firearm and pointed it at Riley while telling him to get on the ground. Riley raised his hands in surrender and dropped to the ground.

Once on the ground, it appears Riley attempted to move or get back up. Hessenflow kicked him back down saying, “I will shoot you. Get on the ground.”

Riley screamed profanities at Hessenflow while on the ground.

A woman with Riley at the time of the incident told police Riley was intoxicated.

Reports describe the assault as a kick to the chest. But Ricky Gurley, a private investigator at RMRI, Inc. who was contacted by the defense attorney to initiate a private investigation, described Riley as being beaten senseless by Hessenflow, as well as the officers he called for backup.

Riley was treated for multiple injuries, including a broken bone in his arm, head and neck trauma, facial lacerations and chest pain.

Riley was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and second-degree robbery. Against the advice of his attorney, Riley plead guilty in 2010.

Riley appealed to the Citizens Police Review Board, claiming he was treated unfairly and that Hessenflow used excessive force. Two separate police investigations determined Hessenflow was acting within his bounds as a police officer in self-defense.

Before Riley was able to appear before the review board, Hessenflow resigned from CPD. His resignation freed him from his duty to appear before the board due to a standing ordinance. Riley was planning to bring forth evidence not included in the police investigation.

Hessenflow said the resignation had no connection to the investigation. He had applied for a job the previous fall with the Department of Homeland Security, and he said a job offer came up suddenly.

In an earlier interview with The Maneater, Hessenflow left a few parting words concerning Riley’s appeal.

“Anyone who has an in-depth knowledge of the case knows this appeal is, for lack of a better term, ridiculous." Hessenflow said. "The department did a very in-depth review. It’s pretty well established that this appeal is frivolous and unfounded."

In the same interview, he also referred to the case Riley and his private investigator made concerning Hessenflow’s timely departure as a conspiracy theory.

Almost a year and a half after the board hit a dead end with Hessenflow’s departure from CPD, the City of Columbia gave Riley a settlement of $55,000. Riley brought the case before the Western District Court of Missouri. Riley and Kansas City attorney Sean Pickett brought 31 charges to the court, 27 of which were dismissed. Riley was given the settlement granted he would not continue with the remaining charges.

Riley told the Columbia Tribune he was more than happy with the settlement.

“We would’ve gone to trial on the charges left had that been the decision,” Pickett said. “There’s a lot of things to consider, including an appeal and putting things to bed for the client.”

Pickett said in the end, the client decided to settle and try to put the incident behind him.

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