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'I didn't want to get shot' | Black St. Louis officer testifies again about assault at hands of his peers

In all, five St. Louis police officers were indicted for assaulting Detective Luther Hall, who was working undercover as a protester in 2017
Credit: Provided Photo
A provided photo of Luther Hall

ST. LOUIS — A Black St. Louis police officer took the stand Wednesday to testify against two of the five white officers accused of assaulting him when he was working undercover as a protester in 2017.

It was the second time Detective Luther Hall has testified against these officers.

A trial in March resulted in partial verdicts and hung juries on some of their charges.

He began testifying just before 3 p.m., telling the jury he will have 26 years of service with the St. Louis police on June 19.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Costantin asked him why he separated from his partner, Officer Lewis Naes. 

Hall said it was because he believed walking with Naes would be "suspicious."

"A Black male and a white male walking together and we're a little older, we can dress to blend in, but it still might look suspicious," he said.

Hall's voice cracked with emotion as he recalled how he dressed intentionally in smaller clothes to show protesters he was not armed like a policeman would be. 

Costantin asked him why he didn't carry his gun in his backpack like his white partner did.

"At no time did we feel the protesters were any kind of harm to us," Hall said. "I didn't want to get caught with a gun and stopped by some policeman and get shot."

"Why would it be a problem for you to get caught with a gun and now (Naes)?" Costantin asked him.

"Truthfully? Because I'm Black and Lew is white," he said.

She also asked him about arrests he had while working undercover in the narcotics division.

"Usually there was a smack or you would get thrown against a car pretty hard," he said. "Were you ever kicked or beaten during those previous arrests?"

"No," he said.

During the first trial, Hall's testimony stretched over two days.

An all-white jury was seated for the first trial as well as this trial.

In all, five officers were federally indicted on charges related to the assault.

Hall was working undercover as a protester in 2017 following the acquittal of a white St. Louis police officer who had been charged with the murder of a Black man following a pursuit.

Two of the officers accused of assaulting Hall have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Three went on trial in March, and the results were an acquittal for one of them, a partial verdict for Christopher Myers and a hung jury for Dustin Boone.

Myers is still facing a destruction of evidence charge, for allegedly destroying Hall’s cellphone. Hall captured some of the assault on his cellphone, and prosecutors are alleging Myers destroyed it to conceal evidence of the attack.

Boone is again facing a deprivation of civil rights charge, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

The trial is expected to last about two weeks, which is the same amount of time the first trial took.

An all-white jury was seated for this trial, as it was for the first trial. 

The Ethical Society of Police, a membership organization that represents primarily Black officers issued the following statement:

"The Eastern District of Missouri draws from 13 rural and mostly white counties as well as the City of St. Louis. The court, including jurors, should be as impartial as possible when deciding cases. For a jury selection to result in not one person of color is an indication of the intentionality to exclude representatives of the demographic disproportionately impacted by police violence. The all-white jury clearly only represents the peers of the accused.

"A hush has fallen over the city regarding a black police officer being beaten and treated like an animal. The absence of an outcry for justice from those who claim to support officers is glaringly apparent.

"The criminal justice system continues to show black victims of police violence do not receive the same level of justice when white officers are accused of excessive force. We pray for, but are not optimistic for, a just outcome in this case."