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Florissant officer gets probation for striking man with police SUV

In plea deal the victim agreed to, Joshua Smith will get two years of probation for striking a man who was running from police with his SUV.

FLORISSANT, Mo. — When St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar saw videos of an officer striking a man running from the police with his police SUV, he vowed to seek justice and threw multiple charges at him.

Now, more than two years later, that former officer is walking away with two years of probation following a plea deal for misdemeanor assault.

Lohmar said that’s what the victim wanted.

“It was going to be a close call with the evidence as to how things may play out in the trial,” Lohmar said. “But ultimately, the victim in this case, through his attorney, was very adamant that we resolve this case without a trial.”

The victim also has a pending civil lawsuit against the City of Florissant.

Had the former officer, Joshua Smith, been convicted of an intentional criminal act, the city’s insurance policy would not cover any settlements. That would leave the victim with only one person to sue – the officer himself.

“The victim did not want to be involved in the case, did not want to have to sit in a courtroom and testify,” Lohmar said. “I think he was just ready to put this thing to bed.”

The victim’s lawyer, Jermaine Wooten, did not return repeated phone calls and text messages seeking comment for this story.

Wooten released a video of the incident captured on a home surveillance system. It happened within weeks of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and ignited months of protests outside the Florissant Police Department — many of them led by the Rev. Darryl Gray.

Gray said he thought Smith deserved much more than two years of probation. But, he said he respects the victim’s wishes.

“He is represented by very legally competent counsel, and I trust that he is acting in the victim’s best interest,” Gray said.

Within the first few weeks following the incident, Wooten demanded the officer be fired and criminally charged, and the Florissant Police Department fired him.

Lohmar was appointed as a special prosecutor on the case after St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell recused himself, citing a conflict of interest with one of the officers involved in the incident. Lohmar issued five charges against Smith, including some that would lead to mandatory prison time.

“We had not talked to the victim yet, and we went with what we thought we had, which was just the video evidence without any sort of eyewitness testimony,” Lohmar said.

Smith’s lawyer, Scott Rosenblum, said his client accidentally hit the victim in this case. The victim was riding in a vehicle that matched the description of a car wanted in connection to a shots fired incident in Ferguson and ran from the car as officers closed in.

According to the civil lawsuit, the victim “suffered injuries to his ankle, legs, foot, spinal column, body, and head…He has suffered pain, spasms, discomfort, insomnia, psychological trauma and mental anguish and will in the future continue to suffer from all of the aforementioned conditions. He has balance problems due to vertigo and tendinitis, and that said conditions continue and will continue into the future.”

Lohmar noted Smith also had to surrender his peace officer's license, so he can no longer work as an officer in Missouri.

“I think justice looks different in different ways,” Lohmar said. “The one person who chose not to be involved in this was the victim, and, at the end of the day, we decided to respect his wishes.”

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