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'I’m blaming the police department': Former St. Louis officer shot by fellow officer wants civil case reopened with new evidence

Attorneys for Milton Green say Deputy Public Safety Director Heather Taylor gave them a recording of a police commander admitting the city was responsible.
Credit: Sara Machi

ST. LOUIS — Civil attorneys for a former St. Louis police officer who was shot by a fellow officer are asking a federal judge to reopen their case now that the city’s deputy director of public safety gave them new evidence, according to court filings.

Deputy Public Safety Director Heather Taylor gave attorneys for Milton Green an email about the investigation along with a recording of a conversation with former Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole in which O'Toole said the shooting could have been prevented with better training and the police are to blame for the incident, according to the documents.

Green filed a federal lawsuit in 2019 seeking damages against the city and Officer Christopher Tanner, who shot him in 2017 while he and other officers were looking for suspects who had fired at police from a stolen car and fled into Green’s neighborhood.

Green, who is Black, came out of his house in plain clothes to help officers when Tanner, who is white, shot him in the elbow.

“If I was white, I wouldn’t have been shot,” Green told 5 On Your Side in 2019.

City attorneys argued Tanner mistook Green’s badge for a gun when he opened fire.

Judge David Noce granted the city’s motion to dismiss the case on March 6, stating, in part, “Under these circumstances, defendant Tanner had probable cause to believe that plaintiff posed an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, and his use of force was therefore reasonable.”

On March 21, Green’s attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to re-open discovery after Taylor gave them the recording of O’Toole and an email between her and a supervising officer expressing concern that four days after the incident, the city had not yet seized as evidence Green’s clothing from the shooting.

Taylor was a sergeant in the homicide division when Green was shot. She was also the president of the Ethical Society of Police, a membership organization for mostly Black officers.

That organization wanted the investigation of the shooting to be handled by an unbiased investigator with no relation to anyone involved and that the department’s statement following the shooting calling it “friendly fire,” was inaccurate because ESOP believed it was an intentional shooting.

Green’s attorneys included a transcript of the recording Taylor gave them in which O’Toole can be heard saying, “Putting all that aside, let’s address what the problem is. Huge tactical errors. Let’s not have this happen again. You know, so we can address it, we see the weaknesses in some of our policies, OK, that is where we need to strengthen that. So, that’s what it is. It’s not that, hey. You’re. I’m not blaming anybody. If I blame anybody, I’m blaming the police department for not having the right training, not having the right policies, and that is what we are going to correct.”

“We asked for any documents related to this shooting and what should have happened is the city should reach out to employees and ask, ‘Does anyone have any documents related to this,’ and that didn’t happen,” said Jack Waldron of the Khazaeli Wyrsch Law Firm. “We had to identify things for the city and have them produce it rather than city doing its job and finding it and producing it. It certainly raises the question of how many records are there that we haven’t seen.”

Attorney Javad Khazaeli added: “This is litigation discovery 101. The information they’ve hidden shouldn’t let them get an advantage when they’re defending a dirty cop. The City is mandated to go and look for discoverable information. The City knew Heather Taylor was at the hospital, had information, the City knew she helped investigate the incident and picked up evidence, but the City never asked her whether she had any documents.”  

The judge has not yet ruled on the motion to re-open discovery.

A spokesman for the mayor's office provided the following statement:

"I can confirm she remains employed as the City's Deputy Public Safety Director. We won't comment on litigation or personnel matters."

5 On Your Side is awaiting a response from Taylor’s attorney.

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