The second ‘shot heard ’round the world’ to come from the St. Louis area, that of Vonderrit Myers at the hands of an off-duty St. Louis police officer, has sparked new rounds of protests in the area. Police claim that the 18-year-old was armed, but witnesses and family say he was holding a sandwich.
“My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich. Security was supposedly searching for someone else. They Tased him,” said Jackie Williams, Myers’ uncle. “I don’t know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That’s outright murder.”
Police claim Myers fired three shots at them in an attempt to justify riddling the teen’s body with a sixteen bullet barrage. St. Louis police exacerbated things by tweeting that a “gun was recovered” and touting the fact that “the officer was not injured.”
“Like six minutes after I sold him a sandwich, he got shot. … He wasn’t armed when he was here. He didn’t have a hoodie.” said the manager of the market that sold the teen a sandwich. Interestingly, the police report says that the officer and Myers “got into a physical altercation, with hands on each other. During the altercation, the suspect’s hooded sweatshirt came off of him.”
Video evidence from just before the shooting confirms that Myers was not wearing a hoodie.
Lt. Col. Alfred Adkins told Gawker that Myers lept out from behind some bushes to assault the officer. A Twitter user, however, posted some photos that call the “bush” claim into question:
After this information was brought to light, police mysterious ceased using the “bush claim” in their narrative.
An officer working department-approved secondary for a security company, wearing a St. Louis Police Officer’s uniform was in the 4100 block of Shaw when he attempted a pedestrian check. The male suspect fled on foot. The officer pursued the suspect. The suspect turned and fired a gun at the officer. Fearing for his safety, the officer returned fire striking the suspect, fatally wounding him. The officer was not injured. A gun was recovered from the scene. The officer is a 32-year old white male. He has been on the force for 6 years. The suspect is a black male believed to be 18-20 years old. As is department policy, the officer has been placed on administrative leave. The investigation is ongoing.
Police now say that Myers “fell” and began shooting at the officer from the ground.
As it turns out, the security company for which the off-duty officer was working, in uniform, has paid out tens of thousands of dollars to settle lawsuits involving other off-duty cops working for it.
The Guardian reports that,
Court records show that under its previous name of Hi Tech Security, the firm settled a 2011 personal injury lawsuit brought by the family of a man left brain-damaged by an incident involving an off-duty St Louis police officer who was working for the company at the time. In 2010, it settled a lawsuit from a man who alleged that he was arrested roughly, threatened at gunpoint and then jailed after being stopped while driving through a neighbourhood by Hi Tech.
Plaintiffs in both cases told the Guardian on Friday that Hi Tech paid them each more than $70,000 in settlements. Hi Tech’s owner, Adam Strauss, sold the company in 2011 to Gary Cole, his operations manager, who renamed the company GCI.
A message left on Friday for Cole was not returned. A dispatcher for GCI, who would only give her name as Ginger, said: “We bought Hi Tech and took ownership three years ago this month. The owner from that time is no longer involved. The incident this week is being dealt with entirely by St Louis police.”
The 2011 lawsuit was brought by the family of Andrew Himeles, who alleged that he was left with brain injuries after he was detained outside the Europe nightclub in October 2010 by Sergeant Robert Ogilvie, a St Louis officer who was working there for Hi Tech, and a nightclub staff member. The lawsuit named Hi Tech, Ogilvie, the nightclub employee, and the nightclub owner.
Himeles, then 27, was handcuffed following a heated dispute with his girlfriend. Police said later that he fell to the ground while trying to flee with his hands cuffed behind his back and cracked his head on the ground. His father, David, alleged to the Guardian on Friday that his son was in fact struck on the head. He said Hi Tech made a payout that left Himeles with about $70,000 after some medical bills and legal fees had also been covered.
Himeles’s father said that his son, who already suffered from schizophrenia, was in a coma for a week and required months of rehabilitation. He added that the left side of his son’s body was partially paralysed, leaving him walking with a limp, unable to use his left arm fully, and with his speech impaired.
“He’ll be like that for the rest of his life,” said David Himeles. “He gets stopped and reprimanded all the time, as people think he’s drunk. He has to explain to people, and they don’t believe him. They think he’s spaced out on drink and drugs. His life isn’t very much.”
Another incident also shows that representatives of GCI have no qualms with reacting violently with little or no thought.
Hi Tech had the year before settled a lawsuit brought against the firm and its then owner Strauss by Tom Dobrowski, a businessman from Chicago, who spent a night in jail with his son after a brush with Hi Tech security guards, including off-duty police officers, in May 2008.
Dobrowski said he was driving his son, Michael, home from St Louis University, when the pair decided to drive through an area with “pretty scenic streets” and “beautiful old homes”. He said he was stopped by a Hi Tech security guard who yelled at him that they were trespassing and demanded his driver’s licence. When Dobrowski declined, the guard “pulled me towards him and slammed me down on the hood of his car and tried to handcuff me,” he said.
Then 49, Dobrowski escaped the guard, fled in his car and called 911 to report “we were having a problem with a crazy security guard”. But he was soon pursued by more Hi Tech guards – two of them off-duty police officers in uniform – who, he said, tried to run him off the road. Dobrowski said that several guards, including Strauss, pointed guns at him and one tried to pull his 19-year-old son out of their car through a window, injuring his shoulder.
They were arrested. “I was in the back of the security car … totally confused on why I had been arrested by security people, and not understanding why some police officers were driving security cars,” he said later in a letter of complaint to the police. “I did not understand why we were arrested. It was like a bad dream.”
Dobrowski was accused of assaulting the guard who tried to detain him. He said that he and his son were jailed overnight and forced to share a cell with an alleged killer and an alleged rapist. He said on Friday that after he sued Hi Tech, the firm paid him a settlement of between $70,000 and $100,000. “It was totally ridiculous,” Dobrowski said, “they were just a bunch of bullies”.
Missouri Rep. Jeff Roorda (D), an official of the St. Louis Police Union, says Myers would “be alive today if the courts would have embraced” a program to keep weapons suspects behind bars before trial. ” Roorda is a former St. Louis police officer, and was fired for repeat instances of misconduct — including falsification of multiple reports.
Soon after he lost his appeal of his termination, Roorda was hired in the next town over. Now he’s a state legislator. A legislator who has admitted he is helping raise funds for Darren Wilson, the Ferguson officer who recently gunned down unarmed teenager Michael Brown.
Think about that.