Independence parks employee headbutted, run over by dirt bikes: City manager

An Independence city parks employee was injured after being headbutted and then run over by dirt bikes Monday, according to city officials. It’s one of three incidents involving the safety of employees in recent weeks highlighted by the city of Independence in a statement provided to The Star Tuesday.

In the incident involving the dirt bikes, the employee was injured while trying to stop illegal dirt biking along Rock Creek Trail near Rotary Park, Rebecca Gannon, a spokesperson for the city of Independence said in an email. Police are investigating the incident, Gannon said.

City manager Zach Walker told Independence City Council members Monday the employee spoke to the people involved before the incident, telling them they were riding in a location where dirt bikes were not allowed.

“When he pointed this out to them, they chose to respond by headbutting him and then proceeding to run over him twice with their motorized vehicles,” he said.

The employee went to urgent care for treatment and had to get stitches, he said: “Our thoughts are certainly with him.”

In another incident in recent weeks, a homeowner shot at an Independence Power and Light employee who was turning off their electricity, Gannon said.

And in a third incident, a citizen blocked a vehicle and two city employees at a job site and “verbally assaulted” them Monday afternoon, Gannon said.

“Each of these incidents gives us great pause; the safety and well-being of our city employees is paramount in every situation,” she said. “We are having multiple, in-depth, thoughtful internal discussions about changing our protocols to keep our employees safe.”

“Just want to remind everybody that our city employees are, in fact, human beings who are trying to get home to their families at night as well,” Walker said at the conclusion of Monday night’s city council meeting.

“They’re just doing a job, serving the public. May not always like what the rules are, but they’re just trying to do their jobs in enforcing them. Certainly would ask and implore people to show them the respect you would show any human being out on the street,” Walker said.

Those episodes come after a high-profile incident in February in which an Independence police officer and a Jackson County civil process server were killed and two more officers were injured in a shooting during an eviction in the city.

Referring to the incident involving the parks employee, Mayor Rory Rowland told The Star he hoped those involved would be identified and charged appropriately.

“People are driving cars faster, more aggressively, and there seems to be amped up anxiety in society right now,” he said. “It concerns all of us. The respect for law and order, respect for our officers, all of those things are a challenge in our society at this point.”