After a brush with Marion police raised questions about officer conduct, 22-year-old Atchison man Kodi Goodpasture and a group of young people he was with in or around a Marion home Dec. 31 can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
And while police have not confirmed rumors about what happened, some police culpability now seems to have been acknowledged.
Police chief Tyler Mermis and county attorney Susan Robson made a mutual decision last week not to pursue charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and furnishing alcohol to a minor against Goodpasture after he was found parked in a no-parking zone near 209 S. Roosevelt St. early on New Year’s Eve.
Mermis and Robson also elected not to pursue charges against seven people younger than 21 who, Mermis said, police discovered had all been drinking illegally at or near that location.
Goodpasture had been smoking a cigarette and talking to a friend when he saw lights in his rearview mirror.
“I see the cop pull up, and I think he’s going to talk to us,” Goodpasture said. “But he just walks right past us, goes up to the house, and starts knocking on the door loudly.”
When no one answered, Goodpasture said, officer Mike Stone asked Goodpasture’s 19-year-old friend to go get someone he believed to be inside the house.
“I couldn’t see everything from where I was, but it sounded like Stone began beating on the door,” Goodpasture said. “He seemed mad about something. He didn’t wait five minutes before he went in.”
Goodpasture said he didn’t know the occupants of the house very well but had heard that a “cop’s son” was living there.
Property owner Alan Kruse confirmed that the house’s door was damaged, presumably by Stone’s entry into the house that morning, but he expressed approval for what Marion police had done to compensate him.
“I feel the situation was handled in a satisfactory manner,” Kruse said. “All I was concerned about was the property. Everything was taken care of.”
Before he was arrested, Goodpasture said, he was not given a breath test or a chance to move his truck.
“I was mad,” Goodpasture said. “They wouldn’t tell me the charges. Stone tightened the cuffs so tight that my thumb went numb for two days. I’m fine now, but… It was odd: a party at some kids’ house, and they don’t get arrested at all.”
Officer Clinton Jeffrey also responded to the incident.
Repeated attempts to clarify events of that morning resulted in no comment from Mermis.
However, without specifically acknowledging what had happened, Mermis issued a press release.
“Sometimes in the heat of the moment an officer responds in a way that may not be the best or in a way that may be viewed negatively,” Mermis said in the release. “This response can sometimes lead to mistrust by the public. I want to change this. I have the greatest trust in my officers while they are on or off duty.”
Mermis said he assessed incident reports, spoke to Stone and Jeffrey, and contacted Robson, who was still county attorney at the time.
“After consulting with the police chief and looking at the totality of the circumstances surrounding the report I received, it was determined there would be no charges going forward,” Robson said.
Referring to “the totality of the circumstances,” Robson confirmed that she was aware of reports questioning police conduct. She also confirmed that those questions figured into the decision not to pursue charges.
“I know there are questions of conduct, but I have every confidence in the police department,” Robson said. “Unfortunately, we live in a small town where everybody can post what they want on Facebook without risk of recourse.”
Goodpasture’s mother, Terrie, said Mermis told her that Stone was being reprimanded.
Mermis did not respond directly to an inquiry about how the alleged presence of one of Stone’s sons might have affected Stone’s behavior.
However, in his press release, Mermis said that he and Robson had determined that the City of Marion should update policies regarding how Marion police handle certain situations.
He also noted that Mayor Todd Heitschmidt and City Administrator Roger Holter had been notified.