ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt says St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has not charged any of the people that St. Louis police officers have arrested during recent violent protests and, as a result, they’ve all been released.
“To see that kind of level of violence and rioting that went on, police officers being shot and shot at, a retired police captain being murdered, people throwing rocks and gasoline and frozen water bottles at police officers, firefighters being assaulted and blocked from doing their job, businesses that have served the community for years being burned to the ground, it’s unfathomable that every single person arrested that night has been released.
"It is stunning."
In a recorded statement issued late Wednesday, Kim Gardner responded to Attorney General Schmitt's criticism over handling of arrests from riots on Sunday and Monday.
She said St. Louis police only brought her office eight cases related to stealing charges — numbers that stand in direct contrast with statistics released by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
She said to issue charges in those cases without sufficient evidence would be "unethical."
You can watch the full statement in the YouTube video below.
St. Louis police officers arrested 36 people between Sunday and Tuesday – 25 of whom were arrested during riots that erupted late Monday and into early Tuesday morning during which four police officers were shot. The charges included misdemeanors and felonies for burglaries, property damage, assault, interfering with arrest, stealing and trespassing and unlawful use of a weapon, according to the department.
Only two of those 36 arrests resulted in summons, leaving the remaining 34 under “Pending Application of Warrant” or “Refused” for police follow up status, according to the police department.
Gardner’s spokeswoman said her office has requested additional information from police for two cases.
At about 3 p.m., the Circuit Attorney's Office tweeted: "Public safety in the city of St. Louis is critical. A few cases involving stealing from the looting incidents were referred to our office. In an effort to hold the offenders accountable, we need essential evidence from the police. These matters remain under investigation."
A person must be released after 24 hours if they are not charged with a crime. Schmitt’s spokesman Chris Nuelle acknowledged that Gardner’s office has as long as three years to charge people with these crimes.
“There is the chance that she could issue them, but they could riot and loot tonight even if she charges them later because they were released,” he said.
Schmitt said releasing them sends the wrong message to criminals.
“It emboldens them,” he said. “There have to be consequences to that and we’re just not seeing that from the local prosecutor.”
In a press conference Tuesday with other city leaders including Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, Chief John Hayden and Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson, Gardner said she would “use the full power of the law” to prosecute those involved in violence.
“What happened last night was not about nonviolent protests, what happened was a small group of individuals chose to benefit off of the pain and suffering of our community and use it as excuse to … engage in senseless violence,” she said. “I will continue to uphold the rights to peacefully protest, but I want to be clear, I will use the full power of the law and my officer (sic) to prosecute and hold accountable anyone who murders police officers, shoots at police offices or harms anyone in my community.
“These people who commit these heinous acts are not interested in finding solutions to intractable racism at the heart of the protests, but they’re using this opportunity to cause chaos to everyone. Understand that you will be held responsible for these senseless acts of violence.”
Schmitt said he heard Gardner’s words.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said. “People who were throwing rocks at cops were released, people who knocked out the windows to a deputy sheriff’s van were released.
“It’s an unbelievable situation. And this is on top of the releases from the jail for COVID-19. This stuff adds up.”
Gardner and Schmitt have clashed before. Gardner is a Democrat. Schmitt is a Republican.
He has a partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which has resulted in more than 200 federal indictments for federal charges.
He also tried to get concurrent jurisdiction in St. Louis so his office would get to look at cases St. Louis police bring to her office at the same time she does. It was an effort opposed by the Missouri Prosecutor’s Association and has not passed.