ST. LOUIS — An attorney for two St. Louis police officers refutes allegations by the circuit attorney’s office that the officers lied about being nearly carjacked on March 19.
The attorney, Brian Millikan, said Thursday that the officers are being truthful when they say a man walked up to their police cruiser on Chouteau Avenue and pointed a gun.
Millikan and the circuit attorney’s office are watching the same business security video from that night — but coming up with opposite conclusions about what it shows. It boils down to an encounter that lasted two or three seconds.
The camera, mounted on a business a half-block away, shows the driver’s side of a police pickup truck as it stops on Chouteau, but the confrontation with a man actually takes place on the passenger side.
Prosecutors showed snippets of the video to reporters Tuesday, saying it helped prove that the suspect didn’t raise his arm or point a gun. Millikan, meanwhile, said he thinks the security footage actually helps his case. He said the video shows the police truck drove away quickly after the man walked to their window.
People are also reading…
“Something happened to make him drive away like that,” Millikan said. “And what happened was, the guy pointed the gun at him.”
“The video did not show the critical moment when he goes to the passenger window” with the gun, Millikan said.
Millikan said the officers’ account is true — and he is upset that the St. Louis Police Department hasn’t come out in support of the officers. Millikan is calling on the department to release every video that might have captured the confrontation from a different angle — and any video that might show the suspect pointing his gun at others earlier in the night.
The incident happened about 3 a.m. March 19, on eastbound Chouteau near South Tucker Boulevard. Officers were on their way to a shooting call, and the man stepped into a traffic lane, blocking the police pickup. Officers said in their report that the man was trying to carjack them and pointed the gun at one officer’s head and torso, but ran off when he realized the truck was a police vehicle.
The officer driving maneuvered quickly to leave for their safety, Millikan said.
“It happened so fast,” Millikan said. “The driver thought the best thing to do would be to drive and get away as quickly as possible, and it was an instinctual reaction and the right reaction.”
The officers circled back and drove west on Chouteau to try to find the man. They put out an “officer-in-need-of-aid” call and others helped search, eventually arresting a 27-year-old man a block away and recovering a handgun.
The day of the incident, police sought robbery charges against the man, but prosecutors refused and asked for more investigation. Days later, prosecutors charged the man with unlawful use of a weapon for pointing a gun.
On Tuesday, prosecutors held a news conference to say that the charges were being dropped. Prosecutors said they uncovered the business security video on their own and determined that footage along with some body-worn camera footage from police showed the officers had lied. They played only brief segments of videos for reporters but have declined to release all of the footage; the police department has refused a request by the Post-Dispatch to release video.
Allison Hawk, a spokeswoman for the circuit attorney’s office, said Thursday that the office “stands by the facts presented Tuesday. We have no further comment.”
The St. Louis Police Department has not made Chief John Hayden available for an interview with the Post-Dispatch. The department said Tuesday that it was seeking information from the circuit attorney’s office and would look into the matter.
“At the very least, there should be a statement there is no evidence that these officers lied,” Millikan said of the Police Department.
Millikan said the department hasn’t filed any internal complaints against the two officers. He said their records are spotless and they haven’t gotten complaints from citizens in all their years as officers either.
Millikan said he expects the officers’ names will wind up on Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner’s so-called “exclusion list” of officers she doesn’t trust. The list bans certain officers from pursuing criminal charges with Gardner’s office. Her office wouldn’t say if the officers’ names are on the list. Chief Warrant Officer Chris Hinckley with Gardner’s office said the officers’ actions are under investigation.
One officer’s body worn camera footage recorded for nearly four hours after the incident, including conversations at the police station with a commander. Hinckley said those conversations indicate the lieutenant was coaching the officers on how to write the report.
Millikan said the claim that the lieutenant coached them was “ridiculous.” He said the conversations the officers had with a ranking officer were a typical part of report writing.
At the scene, after the suspect was arrested, the body-worn camera also recorded an officer talking with other police officers. He is heard, agitated and breathless, saying that the man ran up on them and pointed a gun.
“He put a (expletive) gun, like this, at my window,” the officer said. He added: “He came running with full speed, he wasn’t walking. He came charging like this.”
Millikan again said the video helps his case. He said the officer is agitated because he has just been through a traumatic event, seeing a gun pointed at police. And while the officer thinks the camera is switched off, his account doesn’t change over four hours of being recorded, the lawyer added.
The officer who was seated in the passenger seat, who said the gun was pointed at him, has been with the department two years. “He’s very upset about this,” Millikan said. The officer who was driving the vehicle is a 24-year veteran.
Millikan said the two officers are still working but that the prosecutors’ allegations “will permanently stain their careers.” One of the officers is thinking about quitting the force.
“The one with 24 years on, he loves his job — or did love his job,” Millikan said. “He loves serving the community. He is a deacon at his church. He’s got a family, and his plan up until (the circuit attorney’s allegations) was to continue to serve, but he’s definitely rethinking that.”
Millikan is a lawyer for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, which represents the rank-and-file officers. He was a St. Louis police officer from 1994 to 1998, before going to law school. Millikan said the latest allegations from Gardner’s office are part of a larger problem in relations between Gardner and police.
“My feeling on it dealing with these cases, five police trials in the last year, unprecedented, is that it’s all part of a bigger narrative to drive a wedge between the community and the police who try every day to protect the community,” he said.
Meanwhile, another St. Louis police organization weighed in on the controversy Thursday. The Ethical Society of Police, whose membership consists primarily of black officers, said in a written statement that this “one-sided view of the video presented by the Circuit Attorney’s Office has reopened a healing wound” between the police department and the circuit attorney’s office.
“These two officers are dedicated and honest, therefore they should not be treated with such disrespect,” the Ethical Society of Police statement said.
“This was a case of a possible attempted robbery that, through the professionalism and discretion of the officers, did not lead to a possible use of deadly force through overreaction,” the statement added. “The allegations that were presented by the Circuit Attorney’s Office claiming the officers fabricated the incident are misleading and lack the incident’s entire content.”
A 27-year-old man was arrested early Saturday after trying to carjack a marked patrol vehicle from two city officers.
Police had sought charges of first-degree robbery, armed criminal action and resisting arrest against a 27-year-old man.
Police had wanted him charged with robbery and other crimes, but St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said the evidence doesn’t support those charges.
The officers said they were nearly carjacked on March 19 in the city’s LaSalle Park neighborhood. On Tuesday, the prosecutor’s office said the officers are under investigation for lying in a sworn statement.