ST. LOUIS — Two Velda City police officers have been charged in connection with an officer-involved shooting that happened in February.
Matthew Schanz and Christopher Gage have been charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.
The charges stem from an incident on Feb. 25 in which two Velda City police officers pulled over a man on Octavia, near West Florissant.
At the time, a St. Louis County spokesperson said the man started to drive off toward the officers during the traffic stop and that both officers fired shots at the man, striking him more than once.
The driver led officers on a short pursuit, about half a mile long, and crashed into another car. It was a minor wreck, the county spokesperson said. The man was taken to the hospital with critical injuries.
But according to court documents, St. Louis County detectives wrote that the victim drove around and past the officers and turned west on to West Florissant Avenue.
After the car had driven around Schanz and was heading past the officers onto West Florissant Avenue, Gage fired multiple times into the vehicle.
The driver, identified only by his initials in court documents, was struck by the gunfire and suffered “serious physical injury."
Gage's attorney, Gabe Crocker, tells 5 On Your Side that he will plead not guilty to the charges and plans to fight them.
"My client was thrust into a life and death situation which required the use of force against a suspect who nearly struck and killed another police officer," he wrote in a statement. "As dangerous and violent criminals threaten the citizens of St. Louis County, including the recent homicide at the Galleria, the irony of charging a police officer who has dedicated his entire life to protecting the public cannot be ignored."
Court documents also say it all began when the officers saw the car with expired temporary tags. The officers smelled marijuana coming from the car and Gage told the driver that they were going to search the car without probable cause and arrest him if they found marijuana, according to the documents.
The driver then fled along Octavia Avenue. Schanz then “falsely reported over his police radio that the driver had tried to run them over,” according to the documents.
The driver turned around at the end of the block because it was a dead-end street. When he drove back down the streets, the officers were standing out of the roadway in a small parking lot. Schanz then walked out to the center of the roadway and into the path of the vehicle yelling at the driver to stop, according to the documents.
Schanz then fired his handgun multiple times into the vehicle first as he approached the car and then again as he drove past the officers and turned on to West Florissant Avenue, according to the documents.
Their bail has been set at $75,000 each, with 10% allowed to be posted.
The St. Louis County Police Association president criticized Bell’s decision to force the officers to turn themselves in because one of them has COVID-19.
“I think it’s reckless and irresponsible to expose not only his own staff but the jail staff,” Crecelius said. “The fugitive staff of police department, the health department staff that works in the jail to a sick symptomatic person that’s been infected with COVID-19. I can remember a few months ago they were letting perfectly healthy people out of jail because of their concerns about COVID-19. This incident occurred six months ago and all of a sudden it’s extremely important that they turn themselves in today.”
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