Another Police Shooting In Missouri

Nearly exactly two months to the day after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, another African-American man has been shot and killed in the St. Louis area, and it has set off another round of protests:

An off-duty police officer shot and killed a black teenager in St. Louis on Wednesday night, setting off a demonstration just days ahead of long-scheduled protests in Missouri about the use of lethal force by the authorities.

The St. Louis police chief, D. Samuel Dotson III, said at a news conference that the teenager had fired at least three shots toward the officer, a six-year veteran who was working in the city’s Shaw neighborhood for a private security firm. Chief Dotson said that the officer had fired 17 rounds, but that he did not know how many times the teenager had been hit.

The teenager’s family disputed the police account, and a woman who said she was his cousin told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had been unarmed.

“He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun,” the cousin, Teyonna Myers, told the newspaper. “It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”

(…)

Chief Dotson did not name the teenager or the officer involved in Wednesday’s shooting, but said the officer’s actions were under review by police officials who are members of a newly formed unit that investigates lethal force episodes.

At a news conference early Thursday, Chief Dotson said that the gunfire began after the teenager and others with him fled from the officer. The officer and the teenager who was killed, Chief Dotson said, eventually became involved in “a physical altercation.”

Soon after, the chief said, the teenager fired a handgun toward the officer, prompting the officer to open fire.

Word of the shooting quickly spread, and Chief Dotson said that several police cars were damaged during ensuing demonstrations. No arrests were made.

“No businesses were looted,” Chief Dotson said. “No windows were smashed, and I hope that continues to be.”

The Associated Press reported that much of the crowd had dissipated by about 1 a.m.

Chief Dotson said the teenager who had been killed was “no stranger to law enforcement,” but he declined to elaborate.

The Atlantic and Talking Points Memo both go into further detail about the conflicting details that are coming out about this shooting in the initial hours, so it’s best not to jump to conclusions in this case. If it does turn out that that the teenager who was shot was indeed firing at the officer, or was part of a group that included someone who was firing, then that would take the case completely out of anything similar to the Brown shooting and make it seem more like a case of justifiable homicide. The problem, of course, is that thanks to the Brown shooting and its aftermath, as well as the years that proceeded it, there doesn’t seem to be much trust between the police and the African-American community in the area. Given that, it’s unlikely that the community is going to take what the police are saying about this shooting at face value, nor should they necessarily do so. Perhaps more importantly, this shooting comes on the eve of a weekend of protests in the area over the Brown shooting and the investigation. An event like this is only likely to stir up passions if not brought under control.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, Race and Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    Well, it’s one thing to say the other guy had what looked like a gun in his hand; it’s a whole different kettle of fish to say he fired several shots at the officer. That seems like something that any forensics team should be able to prove or disprove in fairly short order…

  2. Whether the teenager was armed and firing shots or not, the officer is on record as having fired 17 shots. 17 goddamn shots! I’m sick of the typical cop response to a threat being, “Massacre the threat and everything else in its vicinity.”

  3. EddieinCA says:

    All the stories claim that the police officer saw the three youth walking, one of the youths started running, and the police made a U-turn and then started chasing them. Why the hell would he do that? There was no crime. There was no probable cause. It was no report of any suspicious activity. Why would a cop suddenly start chasing these boys.?

    I’m sure the fact that they were black had absolutely nothing to do with it.

  4. Anderson says:

    @Stress N. Strain: I think the local cops’ motto is “Exterminate the brutes!”

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Stress N. Strain:

    17 goddamn shots!

    Yeah. I thought these people were supposed to be trained. When they’re on a range are they taught to just empty a magazine and hope for the best?

    It’s reported that in 2011 police in Germany fired 85 rounds in the line of duty. 49 warning shots and 36 with intent to harm. Six killed, 15 injured. No report on whether some subjects were hit more than once, but even if not, pretty good marksmanship. And restraint.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    He fired 3 shots and was killed by return fire. Well, that sounds like he didn’t have a lot of time to hide his gun. So, if he was firing shots, then a gun should be found pretty easily (indeed, he would probably still be holding it).

    So, I would expect the police to be able to produce this pretty easily.

    Unfortunately, I’d give it 50/50 odds that the police either “lose” this particular piece of evidence, or somehow are just unable to find it despite mustering all of their manpower.

  7. bandit says:

    No doubt another innocent thug gunned down just when he was turning his life around

  8. the Q says:

    The NRA (National Restaurant Association) came out with this presser:

    “Its time people finally realize that sandwiches don’t kill people. People kill people. Now the ACLU will no doubt chime in that its time we ban sandwiches or greatly regulate who can and can’t eat sandwiches, but this will not solve the problem and will indeed create an underground black market for subs, cheesesteaks, and hoagies. More regulation is NOT the answer! We need to better educate those sandwich eaters on the proper way to buy and consume these sandwiches. Carls Jr. certainly does not help the cause when they market their sandwiches to an aggressive, young, white, male crowd who sloppily chomp on these sandwiches without any sensitivity to those around who may not appreciate the mess they create. If we ban sandwiches from law abiding people, only the criminals will have sandwiches.”

  9. JKB says:

    [Police Chief] Dotson said the suspect was not unknown to the department and that a 9mm Ruger was recovered from the scene.

    Twitter also reports that at a press conference it was reported the ballistics had confirmed 3 rounds fired and recovered from behind the officer.

    The only issue I see problematic, and not an issue in the justification of the shooting, is the initial attempt to stop the three. But upon following one of the three, the officer came upon them. The person shot approached the officer, didn’t heed orders to stop. There was an altercation, then the guy ran, firing back at the officer who returned fire. The initial reason for attempting a stop may be an issue in any civil proceeding. Problem is, the officer was acting as private security.

  10. Tyrell says:

    @Stress N. Strain: Cop response ? If someone is firing at me I am not going to count the shots. I am going to keep firing until one of us goes down. And I don’t even own a gun. Self defense if there ever was (providing the events happened as reported). If this happened the other way around, it would not even be on the news.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Stress N. Strain:

    Whether the teenager was armed and firing shots or not, the officer is on record as having fired 17 shots. 17 goddamn shots! I’m sick of the typical cop response to a threat being, “Massacre the threat and everything else in its vicinity.”

    Meanwhile, in Germany, a country of 80 millon people which actually makes an effort to have a trained and professional police force:

    German police officers fired a total of 85 bullets in 2011, 49 of which were warning shots, the German publication Der Spiegel reported. Officers fired 36 times at people, killing six and injuring 15. This is a slight decline from 2010, when seven people were killed and 17 injured. Ninety-six shots were fired in 2010.

    ….”Our police officers are no thugs in uniform,” Lorenz Caffier, interior minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, said at a press conference Tuesday. “It is gratifying that the use of firearms by police officers against people is declining,” Caffier added.

  12. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    49 warning shots and 36 with intent to harm. Six killed, 15 injured. No report on whether some subjects were hit more than once, but even if not, pretty good marksmanship. And restraint.

    With 36 bullets fired with intent to harm resulting in 21 killed or injured, and accounting for a few inevitable misses, it’s pretty clear that most of those hit were hit with only one bullet.

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Problem is, the officer was acting as private security.

    I’m not a big fan of off-duty police acting as private security. Pay them enough so they don’t have to moonlight and then ban the practice. It creates too many conflicting incentives.

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    The person shot approached the officer, didn’t heed orders to stop. There was an altercation, then the guy ran, firing back at the officer who returned fire. The initial reason for attempting a stop may be an issue in any civil proceeding. Problem is, the officer was acting as private security

    If he was acting as private security, then under what authority did he order them to stop?

  15. Tyrell says:

    @Rafer Janders: Sounds like there is a different situation over there: no gangs, thugs, bank robbers, and other violent criminals freely roaming around like you have in many cities and areas here.

  16. the Q says:

    @ Tyrell, yes its because the Germans would never be violent enough to gas/mutilate/shoot/burn/starve/torture/destroy 13 million “ethnics” in prison camps or starve to death 5 million Russians then kill another 3 million just for ducks.

    No, the real thugs roam the streets of St. Louis….

  17. Gustopher says:

    The problem, of course, is that thanks to the Brown shooting and its aftermath, as well as the years that proceeded it, there doesn’t seem to be much trust between the police and the African-American community in the area

    And this is why the police need to have body cameras, and microphones, turned on at all times.

    Even if this was a perfectly justifiable shooting (and the person shot was wearing body armor that meant that 17 bullets were actually needed), this cop is going to be dragged through the mud.

    Sure, there are privacy concerns, but those can be addressed with regulations specifying when the video/audio is destroyed, and when it can be released.

  18. JKB says:

    @Rafer Janders: If he was acting as private security, then under what authority did he order them to stop?

    He’s still a police officer and was in uniform.

    Now you are going to love this. The officer was working as a neighborhood watch, although for pay via a security company. He saw the 3 men, turned around, they ran off, he followed then left his truck to follow them on foot. He encountered the men again after going through a pedestrian area. Where one approached and assaulted the officer then ran off. It was then that the office saw the 18 yr old who turned and fired 3 rounds at the officer before his gun jammed but the man continued pulling the trigger. The officer returned fire, striking and killing the man.

    Number of rounds fired is not relevant unless it is shown the officer fired after he should have reasonably been expected to know the threat had ended.

  19. easttexasfatboy says:

    Folks, when do the cops throw in the towel? Just let the thugs kill themselves out. Evacuate the civilians, and fence them in!

  20. bill says:

    @Stress N. Strain: so should cops have some sort of limit as to how many shots they get off while under fire?! i’ve never been under fire (and hopefully never will be) but unless you have then you probably have no clue. and judging by the msm’s dropping off of the story so fast, it’s looking like a “good shoot”- not like that will stop the usual suspects from looting a liquor store to show their discontent.
    and i just loved the “sandwich” reference….like this guy was a woody allen fan?!

  21. KM says:

    @JKB:

    He’s still a police officer and was in uniform.

    The officer was working as a neighborhood watch, although for pay via a security company.

    If he was wearing his official police uniform and using his official police authority while on another’s time and dime, that’s a freaking problem (and possibly illegal). If he was off-duty and wearing his official uniform while under the auspices of private security to invoke that official authority, that’s a problem (and possibly illegal). If he was off -duty, working another job and still trying to be the police at the same time, that’s a conflict of interest.

    It comes down to the simple fact that private security does not have the same rights and authority as the police force does for a damn good reason. If he’s playing at one, he can’t be the other at the same moment. Even if his shoot is clean, the start of this mess isn’t and that’s going to be a huge headache for him, his department, his other employer and frankly everyone in Missouri at this point.

  22. JKB says:

    @KM:

    Sorry, working a second job, in uniform, is not only legal, it is within his department policy. The use of his assigned police cruiser is apparently also within policy. I might expect that would come up for debate as policy unless there is some reimbursement for wear and tear, but it doesn’t impact this case.

    He was being paid to patrol by a 3rd party but his actions were within his warrant as a police officer.

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    Then that’s a horrible, horrible policy.

  24. anjin-san says:

    Young Black Men Are 21 Times More Likely To Be Killed By Police

    Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

    The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/racial-disparity-police-shootings