Police fight back as district attorney continues to prosecute St. Louis cops
In the past five days, two cops from St. Louis have been charged with felonies in an after-hours bar shooting and another was killed by a colleague who, according to the criminal complaint, shot him a single bullet in the chest during a bizarre game of Russian Roulette.
The ugly incidents led to sniping between a police department under fire – and prosecutors prosecuting its officers.
St. Louis Circuit District Attorney Kim Gardner wrote to Police Chief John Hayden and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards on Monday, berating the Police Department for “obstructionist” tactics during prosecutors’ investigation on the death of Officer Katlyn Alix.
The 24-year-old was shot dead by Officer Nathaniel Hendren early Thursday morning as they took turns pulling the trigger of a gun loaded with a single bullet, authorities said. Henren and his partner, who was also in the apartment, were on duty at the time.
Gardner alleges police department blocked efforts by prosecutors to obtain blood samples from Hendren and his partner, even though there was “probable cause at the scene that drugs or alcohol may be a factor contributing to a potential crime “.
Also on Monday, Gardner prosecutors filed charges against officers William Olsten and Joseph Schmitt in a shooting in April 2018. The two are accused of assaulting a 22-year-old in the parking lot of a southern bar from town where they were drinking off duty with two other cops. Olsten climbed into the back of the man’s van and then threw him against the curb, causing the man to shoot and hit Olsten, prosecutors said. Schmitt then shot the man several times, according to the charges.
In a statement about the bar shooting, Gardner wrote that police investigated the incident and filed a complaint against the 22-year-old. But prosecutors declined to classify them. Instead, Circuit Attorney investigators conducted their own investigation, which led to assault charges against the officers.
At a press conference this afternoon, Edwards defended the department. He denied that the police did anything to interfere with the investigations.
“To suggest that an officer is involved in obstructing justice is ridiculous,” he told reporters.
Handling the crime scene in Hendren’s apartment is the responsibility of the police, not prosecutors, he said. And he insisted that they had cooperated as much as possible with the district prosecutor’s office.
Susan Ryan, spokesperson for the circuit prosecutor, said that while it is true that the processing of the scene is carried out by the police, it is common for prosecutors to request the collection of specific evidence.
Gardner sent two investigators and a prosecutor to Hendren’s apartment, which is in the Carondelet neighborhood. She says that when they requested a blood test and obtained a search warrant, the police commanders acted as if they wanted to help, but later told them that a “sample” had been taken. Urged to explain, police told circuit prosecutor investigators that a breathalyzer and urine tests had been performed under the guise of Garrity wards, a process that could potentially protect prosecutors’ results by protecting rights. agents against their own incrimination. There was apparently no blood test.
“Passing these tests under the guise of Garrity appears to be a obstructionist tactic to prevent us from understanding the condition of the officers in the commission of this alleged crime,” Gardner wrote in his letter to police. “We expect that the results of these tests will be immediately communicated to our office as part of the ongoing investigation.”
Edwards promised reporters that the test results would be made public as the trial against Officer Hendren continues, but when asked how this could happen given Garrity’s protections, he did not ‘gave no details.
“I just think you’ll get it,” he said. “I absolutely think you will have it. I want you to have it.”
Hendren’s attorney, Talmage Newton IV, insists the drug claims are “categorically false” and says Gardner’s attempts to get the tests would violate his client’s constitutional rights. Her letter shows that she ignored the work of “seasoned on-site, experienced, investigative professionals as she laid these uniformed and untenable charges,” Newton wrote in a press release.
But even though Edwards rebuffed Gardner’s criticism of the investigation, police did not dispute the charges.
Regarding the charges in the O’Brien bomber shooting, Edwards said police believed it was important to investigate the shooting. The department asked the Force Investigation Unit – the unit that handles shootings involving police – to look into it. They then handed the results to prosecutors.
Ryan says it’s true, but the police never asked for charges against the officers involved. And the case the police gave them – seeking to indict the 22-year-old gunned down by an officer – lacked evidence.
“We started our own parallel investigation when the police laid the initial charges and we felt there was not enough evidence,” Ryan said in an email.
This investigation led to the charges which were filed Monday against Olsten and Schmitt. Headlines in both cases follow revelations last week that an undercover agent told Home Affairs investigators that uniformed officers beat him “like Rodney King” in 2017 during police protests. Four officers have been charged with federal charges in this case.
Edwards says the cluster of cases, spanning years of activity, wrongly portray a problem department.
“The vast majority of officers, they do it well,” he said. “And they are doing a decent job.”
Letter from Kim Gardner by on Scribd