KCPD officer spills ashes of man’s grandmother in arrest
Update: On Wednesday, June 12, a day after this story published, the Kansas City Police Department provided a report documenting the arrest of Deonta Words. That detail is now included in the story.
A Kansas City area man says police dumped out his grandmother’s ashes from a container he wore around his neck during an arrest last month.
The man’s family said Tuesday they want the Kansas City Police Department to provide more answers about exactly what happened, and an apology.
Deonta Words, 25, said he wore the ashes in a silver bullet necklace for the past year and a half, after his grandmother died January 2018. He says the ashes were mostly lost during the arrest when an officer dumped them out on the ground.
Police say it is true an officer spilled the container but that it was an accident and officers were investigating car theft ring. Weeks later, the family is thinking of making a formal complaint, and the department has not yet released a police report documenting what happened.
The incident began early in the afternoon of May 30 when Words was walking to friend’s house, near 39th Street and Topping Avenue, according to his account of events. He says he saw an unmarked car pull up and the flash of a gun. He ran as soon as he saw the car.
It was the police, and he was arrested.
When Words was seized by police, officers started searching him, he said, and opened a necklace containing his grandmother’s ashes.
All of the grandmother’s ashes fell out of the silver bullet, and when the officer scooped it back up, dirt and other debris were now part of it.
“This was the last thing of my grandmother. This is what protected me,” Words said. “Wherever I go, she was with me physically.”
Police said the officer did spill the ashes. In other respects, their account of the arrest is different from Words’.
“The incident was an accident,” Sgt. Jake Becchina, a Kansas City Police Department spokesman, told The Star. “We recognize that many people carry sentimental ashes with them on their person in various containers. Therefore, we ask that you inform police of the contents of any container of sentimental value prior to searching if you are under arrest. Unfortunately, this did not happen in this incident.”
Police said officers found Words, not walking, but in a parked pickup truck that had been reported stolen.
The police were investigating a multi-state car theft ring that targeted dealerships, Becchina said. Police said Words ran before officers arrested him.
The officers were part of the Street Crimes Unit Tactical Team, which specializes in searching for narcotics.
Officers searched Words and said he “refused to give his name and was verbally abusive.”
Police said Words had marijuana in his possession and had warrants for his arrest in Kansas City and Lee’s Summit.
During the search, when an officer opened Words’ necklace, a portion of Words’ grandmother’s ashes fell out.
The arresting officer attempted to reclaim part of it from the ground.
Becchina said the arresting officer apologized to Words.
But Words and his mother, Devona Douglas, both said they haven’t heard any apology from the police department.
“We don’t have any ashes anymore. I’m trying to make good in it, but that’s dirt in there,” Douglas, 44, said. “Admit you’re wrong. Period.”
No charges have been filed against Words as a result of the arrest. Police said details of the investigation were sent to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Words said he doesn’t understand why the police didn’t ask what was inside the necklace before they opened it, or why they opened it up on the street to begin with.
“The officers said they ran across dozens of people with jewelry with drugs in it,” Words said. “OK, so if that’s the case, why did you go and open it on the dirt? Why are you getting rid of evidence?”
Words planned to give the ashes to his children so they could carry it with them. But now, he said, he can’t do that.
The Star requested a police report documenting Words’ arrest.
But as of Tuesday, more than a week after the incident, police said they could not provide it. The police department said it may require 7 to 10 business days after an incident to provide a public copy of the report.
On Wednesday, after The Star published a story about the episode, the police department provided a copy of the report.
The report does not document, as police had previously said, that Words was in a truck when encountered by officers. Instead, the report says Words was walking east on 39th Terrace.