ST. LOUIS — Video St. Louis prosecutors say disproves an account of an attempted carjacking of a marked police car actually corroborates what the officers said happened, according to their attorney.
“The assertion that these officers lied is completely baseless,” said attorney Brian Millikan, who is representing the two officers in question.
In an unusual move, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office showed reporters portions of body camera footage and surveillance video from a nearby business during a news conference Tuesday to announce all charges against the man would be dismissed.
“The Circuit Attorney’s Office is victimizing the victims,” Millikan said of the officers. “These are victims of a crime, and they’re being victimized again personally and professionally by that office.”
The case is the latest disagreement in a long-running battle between police and Gardner’s office.
The Ethical Society of Police and St. Louis Police Officers Association issued statements condemning Gardner's office. The Ethical Society of Police is a membership organization that represents mostly Black officers and the Police Officers Association is the union for the rank-and-file and sergeants.
The officers in question are members of both groups.
The Ethical Society called the video Gardner's office showed "one-sided" and called the officers "dedicated and honest," adding they should be "vindicated."
The police union questioned why Gardner's office did not present the alleged carjacking suspect's videotaped confession and the rest of the body camera footage, which "fully and completely decimate the fairy tale narrative spun in today's press conference."
One of the officers involved can be heard on his body-worn camera saying the suspect ran out from a bus stop, gun drawn and held in outstretched arms. The officer said the suspect first ran directly in front of their car, causing the driver to swerve, before bringing the gun to the passenger side and pointing it inside.
Chief Warrant Officer Chris Hinckley, on behalf of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office, said prosecutors repeatedly asked investigators to turn in video from their own recording devices and private businesses. When the officers did not turn in the third-party security video, the prosecutor's office went looking for it themselves and found it at a business across the street.
"This is nowhere near what he represented," Hinckley said of the two accounts, "you wonder why nobody got this footage."
Moving through the video Tuesday, Hinckley said it instead shows the suspect already a few yards past the bus stop when he starts to cross the street outside of a designated crosswalk. The police vehicle stops short of where the man is standing, he turns back towards the street and walks on with his hands by his side.
Police left the scene three seconds after stopping short in front of the man.
Officers were called to the scene by someone who told 911 dispatchers a man had fired at least six shots after getting off a party bus at about 3 a.m. Officers at police headquarters monitoring surveillance cameras in the area also saw the man flourishing a gun at other cars as they drove by. The man also told police he had a weapon out of his waistband at Tucker Boulevard and Chouteau Avenue where he encountered the officers, according to police sources familiar with the investigation.
Millikan said Hinckley didn’t show all of the footage, which includes the part where the man approaches the passenger side of the police vehicle and points a gun at one of his client’s faces.
“Even though it’s 200 yards away in the dark, the video actually corroborates the statements they made with respect to certain aspects of the case,” he said. “The video doesn’t show anything that occurred at the passenger side of the vehicle.”
Millikan said the police department forbids his clients from speaking to reporters, so he spoke on their behalf.
“They’re extremely upset on a number of levels, for one, being accused of being liars, they have no ability to respond to these false accusations on their own,” he said. “These officers have a combined 26 years of service and there isn’t one citizen complaint in those combined years of service on either of them.
“One of the officers is a deacon at his church. People forget that policemen are people. They’re human beings. They have families, coworkers, friends and all of these people are affected by this sort of public campaign, which seems to me to do nothing but create and promote distrust between the public and police.”
Millikan said he did not represent the police department, so he could not answer Hinckley’s accusation that the department did not turn over surveillance and body camera footage.
But, he added, “The department’s silence on this is disappointing. One of these officers is a 24-year veteran officer with a sparkling record who has served this community with honor and distinction, he’s a victim of a crime, he’s victim of a false narrative created and promoted by the Circuit Attorney’s Office and the department hasn’t said one word of support for these officers.”
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said they're aware of the accusation, adding, "No material has been shared with the Department from the Circuit Attorney's Office about these allegations. We have requested their supported material and will conduct a review.”
Millikan said the department has not yet filed any internal complaints against his clients following the accusations, and the officers have not been added to the Circuit Attorney’s exclusion list – a controversial list created by prosecutors that forbids certain officers from bringing cases to her office for prosecution.
“There is no evidence to indicate these officers ever lied to anyone and the body camera footage filmed in a bathroom shows every statement the officer made, when he did not know was it was recording, corroborates what he said from the beginning,” Millikan said. “His statement never changed, and that is, this suspect pointed a weapon at the officer who was passenger in the vehicle.”
Millikan said his clients have leaned on each other for mental support since the incident.
“The policeman in the passenger seat had two years on,” Millikan said. “When someone points a gun at your face, it has a dramatic emotional effect on you.
“The other officer told me that victim has called him every day since this happened, thanking him for reacting in such a quick fashion and driving away when he did.”
5 On Your Side’s Robert Townsend reached out to Kim Gardner’s office for a reaction to the officers’ lawyer’s comments.
A spokesman said “the Circuit Attorney’s Office stands by the facts presented yesterday (Tuesday). We have no further comment.”
Meantime, Millikan said the 24-year police veteran, in this case, is now considering leaving law enforcement.
“The allegations never go away. Regardless of whether or not they’re exonerated or it’s not sustained, so these are permanent stains on these police officers’ records and could have a big impact on their professional careers,” Milikan said.
Read the full statement from the Ethical Society of Police here:
The one-sided view of the video presented by the Circuit Attorney's Office has reopened a healing wound between the Circuit Attorney's Office (CAO) and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The Ethical Society of Police finds it troubling to hear the accusations against two SLMPD officers. This was a case of a possible attempted robbery that, through the professionalism and discretion of the officers, did not lead to a possible use of deadly force through overreaction. The allegations that were presented by the Circuit Attorney's Office claiming the officers fabricated the incident are misleading and lack the incident's entire content.
The video presented by the CAO does not have any audio and the commentary is given by an individual who has not had a weapon pointed at him. The officer's voice is evaluated and you can hear the stress level. The video shows the officers driving at a rapid speed to create a safe distance after observing the gun. They advised the dispatcher and requested assistance. The subject was taken into custody, a gun was located, which the officers verified was the one used, and a video confession was obtained. These are facts that are not explained nor included verbally in their statement.
These two officers are dedicated and honest, therefore they should not be treated with such disrespect. The citizens of St. Louis deserve better with full transparency to vindicate these officers.