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Neighbor shouts racist slurs at black St. Louis police officer, circuit attorney refuses case

Documents obtained exclusively by 5 On Your Side show the officer has called police to his house 22 times during the past year
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has refused to issue warrants against a white woman who was arrested after repeatedly shouting racial slurs at a black police officer, 5 On Your Side has learned.

The officer is not being named because he is an alleged victim of a crime, and the woman has not yet been charged with a crime.

But documents obtained by 5 On Your Side show the officer has called police to report his neighbor’s actions 22 times during the past few months.

The most recent encounter led to an arrest.

The officer, who is 28 years old, was unloading groceries at about noon Sunday near his home in the Boulevard Heights neighborhood when the woman came out of her house and started yelling at him. He then called police, and the woman came out and shouted more racial slurs at the off-duty officer in front of the responding officer, according to the documents.

The on-duty officer then arrested the woman, 51, on suspicion of second-degree harassment. When the officer and the alleged victim went to Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office to apply for warrants, it was refused, according to the documents.

5 On Your Side has learned that the officer’s lieutenant has since written a letter to Gardner’s chief warrant officer, Chris Hinckley, asking him to reconsider issuing the case. In the letter, the lieutenant said a prosecutor told the officer that even though it was technically a crime, the officer should be used to such words and hateful speech because he is an officer, according to the documents.

“As a hopelessly Caucasian male, I cannot speak to exactly how (the officer) felt,” the lieutenant wrote. “Probably not good. Had this occurred while he was on duty, maybe he would feel different. I do not know. 

"But, to be committing the heinous crime of carrying his groceries into his house, he should not have to put up with one of St. Louis’ worst acting like it is 1957 in Alabama or Mississippi. I am pleading to your sensibilities in reversing the attorney’s decision and issue this case... Police officer or not, (the officer) should NEVER have to put up with that racist behavior at his own home.”

More than 30 hours after 5 On Your Side sought comment from Gardner's office regarding this case, she responded with a statement. 

In it, Gardner said the woman has a "well-documented history of mental health issues," and that she referred the case to the city counselor's office as a peace disturbance. 

"Mental Illness should be medically treated and not be criminalized," she wrote. 

She also said there were two calls to the officer's home related to comments made toward the victim, but a police report obtained by 5 On Your Side shows the officer called police 22 times throughout the past year for "disturbances."

"As the first African-American prosecutor in the city of St. Louis, racial epithets uttered against anyone, including police officers, is a matter of serious concern," she wrote.

On Thursday, Gardner's spokeswoman, Allison Hawk, said the prosecutor "vehemently denies the lieutenant's accusation that the officer was told he should just be used to being called names because he's an officer." 

The situation is yet another example of tension that has been building between Gardner’s office and the police department since she took office in January 2017.

Most recently, Gardner made national news after filing a lawsuit against the city and the police department, alleging that they are conspiring against her in a racially-motivated attempt to remove her from office.

Heather Taylor from the Ethical Society of Police provided the following statement:

"Regardless of race and occupation, if there is an overwhelming amount of probable cause for arrest, the charges against the neighbor should have been issued."

Jeff Roorda, the business manager for the Saint Louis Police Officers Association, also provided a statement: 

"The offender won’t stop unless somebody takes this heinous conduct seriously. Gardner is violating her ethical code as an attorney by not referring this to a special prosecutor. She is suing the organization that this officer is a member of, ironically, for racial discrimination."

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