CLAYTON, Mo. — One of the men involved in the shooting of two St. Louis police officers was arrested just one week before the shooting, but released without a warrant.
August Burns, 23, is facing charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and resisting arrest after police say he was one of three men who fled from St. Louis police officers who tried to pull them over at about 1 p.m. Wednesday. The vehicle they were riding in was spotted during a robbery attempt that led to a fatal shooting outside the Royal Palace restaurant just 12 hours before that.
They pursued the SUV into Ferguson, where a shootout ensued. Two St. Louis officers were shot, one was critically wounded with a gunshot to his abdomen and another was shot in the leg. A third officer returned fire, fatally striking the man police believe shot the two officers, Equan Hopson, 23.
Burns, 23, and another man, Clyde Thomas, 35, were arrested at the scene.
Some of the county officers were already familiar with Burns.
He was arrested Jan. 18 – eight days before – on suspicion of distribution of a controlled substance, tampering and fleeing. Police sources say the car he was in was wanted for a robbery in St. Louis. A county police officer tried to stop the car, which was stolen. Burns ran away from the car. The officer caught up to him, arrested him, and found a felony amount of marijuana inside the car, according to the source.
An assistant prosecuting attorney with Wesley Bell’s office took the charges under advisement. As of Monday, prosecutors were “awaiting more information from the arresting officer,” according to Chris King, a spokesman for Bell’s office.
“It's an active and ongoing investigation so we can't say more at this time,” King wrote.
King later sent an amended statement, which read: "The 'additional information' we were waiting on included a completed and improved police report. You can't issue charges without evidence. We had no evidence to substantiate these other charges when he was released . . . or when he was allegedly involved in the subsequent incident. Any attempt to make us look negligent disregards the basic facts of criminal justice in terms of the evidence needed to ethically issue criminal charges. His subsequent alleged conduct does not change our ethical burden, and our meeting our ethical responsibility to any defendant protects all our rights."
On Feb. 24, Burns was charged with resisting arrest by fleeing in connection with the Jan. 18 incident.
The officer who was shot in the abdomen remains in critical condition. He is 25 years old with three and a half years on the force.
The officer who was shot in the leg is 28 years old with two and a half years on the force.