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Court appoints special prosecutor in Columbia Police Department use-of-force investigation


A judge has appointed a special prosecutor to review the criminal investigation into two former Columbia police officers' use of force outside a downtown bar.

Judge Brouck Jacobs appointed Cooper County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Phelps as special prosecutor Thursday. The appointment was made after Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Johnson requested a special prosecutor because of his department's close relationship with the Columbia Police Department.

"We looked at the ethical rules," Johnson said. "The ethical rules and cases interpreting those rules say that prosecutors have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety." 

Phelps said Johnson's decision to appoint a special prosecutor is standard, and important to maintain an impartial and ethical review.

"I hope I do justice to the people of Boone County in the sense that it will allow someone from outside who doesn't have any relationship with that Police Department, or even with any of the people involved to make that decision about what should happen. So hopefully at the end of the day, whatever that decision is, the people will have I hope, faith in what the decision comes down to," Phelps said.

The Boone County Sheriff's Office is investigating whether two officers used appropriate force against Lee Martin on May 7 outside Harpo's in Downtown Columbia. The two officers -- Gardner Pottorff and Keenen Shouse -- resigned from the department after video of the incident became public.

The video shows Pottorff punch Martin in the face five times while Shouse attempts to hold Martin down.

An internal investigation by CPD ended when the two resigned. However, the criminal investigation is ongoing.

Donald Weaver, the lawyer representing the two officers, has told ABC 17 News the officers resigned because they don't believe they did anything wrong and would not get a fair investigation from CPD after comments made by city leaders.

An arrest report says Martin was accused of third-degree assault, resisting arrest, trespassing and fourth-degree assault. The report says police were called there for a disturbance but what led up to the disturbance remains unknown.

Article Topic Follows: Crime

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Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

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Marina Diaz

Marina is a Multimedia Journalist for ABC 17 News, she is originally from Denver, Colorado. She went to Missouri Valley College where she played lacrosse and basketball, and anchored her school’s newscast.


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