St. Louis Police Have Used StingRay Technology for Years -- They Just Won't Talk About It

Categories: Longform, Police

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Illustration by Noah MacMillan

There were some very bad vibes in downtown St. Louis on the night of October 28, 2013. The Cardinals had just lost Game 5 in the World Series, and the Rams had a pathetic showing against the Seahawks at Edward Jones Stadium. The streets were jammed bumper to bumper with disgruntled fans trying to make it home, and so Brandon Pavelich and Julia Fischer — two college friends on a kinda-sorta first date — decided to walk around a bit before attempting to leave the area.

Then they heard fast footsteps, and the next thing they knew, two men had guns pointed at their heads. They demanded money and cell phones.

Pavelich paused.

"Show him we're serious and shoot him," he remembers one of the men saying.

Instead, a gun smashed into Pavelich's face, opening a gash in his forehead and chin, and chipping a tooth. One of the men reached into Pavelich's pockets as he was reeling, and grabbed his iPhone and cash. They took Fischer's iPhone as well, and ran.

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Cop Who Shot VonDerrit Myers Jr. in Shaw Last Fall Won't Face Charges

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VonDeritt Myers Jr. was shot by an officer in Shaw in October 2014. One month later, when prosecutors declined to charge the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, protests erupted near the scene of Myers' shooting, as well as in Ferguson.
Photo by Theo Welling
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer who shot VonDerrit Myers Jr. last October while working a private security job in the Shaw neighborhood will not face criminal charges, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced this afternoon.

In a 51-page report, Joyce closed out her office's "independent and thorough review" of the October 8 shooting, which led to angry protests and calls of a cover-up just two months after Michael Brown was shot by an officer in suburban Ferguson.

The officer has said that Myers shot first -- and while no eyewitnesses to the entire incident could be found, the Circuit Attorney's investigators found numerous people in the Shaw neighborhood that evening who distinctly recalled hearing fire from two guns. Ballistics reports also concluded that a Smith and Wesson found near Myers' body matched three bullets and four cartridge casings on the scene, while a witness identified Myers -- a.k.a. "Droop" -- as the man who'd stolen the Smith and Wesson from him in the previous month.

A number of witnesses who might have provided a different story refused to cooperate with the investigation, the report notes.

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Research Group Advises St. Louis-Area Police Departments to Consolidate

Categories: Police

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Jessica Lussenhop
August 11, 2014. Ferguson.

Chuck Wexler has been executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum for more than twenty years, and before that a Boston police official. He has worked on violence reduction and police tactics in Minneapolis, Chicago, Northern Ireland and Kingston, Jamaica. But he says he saw something altogether new when he was collecting information about police in the St. Louis region.

Wexler was at one of the many town-hall meetings that PERF arranged after the death of Michael Brown, for a study on the area commissioned by the local nonprofit Better Together. A woman stood up and told the story of how she was ticketed because her grass was too high. When she couldn't pay the ticket, a warrant went out for her arrest. She had to go to court to clear it up.

"I've never seen that happen in other places in the country, and that said something to me about the level of interference in people's lives," says Wexler. "Why would you have to go to court about the grass growing too high?"

After several of these town halls, focus groups and interviews with police chiefs as well as the rank-and-file, PERF made a series of recommendations for the region, which were released last week.

Perhaps the most contentious ones were about consolidating many small departments in north county. But Normandy police chief Frank Mininni thinks there's a chance that local cops will do some soul-searching rather than reject the recommendations outright.

"I think your professional departments and the ones who really do care about their communities, I think they're going to take this paper to heart," he says.

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Missouri Bill to Keep Police Dash and Body Cam Footage From Public Dies in Committee

Categories: Police, Politics

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Danny Wicentowski
An officer wearing a body camera in Ferguson.

House Bill 762 -- the Missouri bill that would at minimum make it impossible to obtain police video until after a case is closed, and at worst would prevent the public from ever accessing such footage -- failed to make it out of the Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety yesterday morning. That suggests the bill is dead, at least for now.

The legislation was introduced after calls for police officers to wear body cameras following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer. But the language may have applied to all police-obtained video, including dash cam footage.

The bill was adamantly opposed by both the Missouri Press Association and the ACLU of Missouri.

"We are relieved that this version didn't move forward," says Doug Crews, executive director of the MPA. "We think Missouri needs guidelines in this area, but we don't think closure of the records should be the starting point."

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MetroLink Passengers Stuck on Train with Belligerent Drunk (UPDATED)

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Photo courtesy of a MetroLink passenger
Above, a man suspected of drunkenly causing an altercation on the Blue Line is finally taken away by EMS at the Shrewsbury station.
UPDATE: We updated this post around 1:50 p.m. with new info from the St. Louis County Police Department. See update at the bottom of the post. We also updated around 6:45 p.m. with additional eyewitness information about the fight.

Original story follows....

An incident on MetroLink's Blue Line turned ugly last week, when a drunk man making racial slurs apparently hassled a woman exiting the train at its Brentwood station. She whacked him with her purse, a witness tells Daily RFT, and made it off the train.

But another passenger was fed up with the man's belligerence, says the witness. That passenger clocked the intoxicated man.

And that's when things got really screwy.

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Former St. Louis Cop: "Police Don't Care What Your Rights Are" During Protests

Categories: Ferguson, Police

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Danny Wicentowski
Terrell Carter.
The words were chanted in the streets of Ferguson, blasted from car stereo systems and graffitied on the plywood panels covering store windows: "Fuck the police."

Yet amid the police shootings, mass demonstrations and intense media coverage of the past eight months, we've rarely had the chance to hear from officers on the ground, those men and women who stood silently on picket lines as protesters hurled invective and insults. Daily RFT's attempts to interview officers directly were repeatedly rebuffed. Occasionally, police chiefs and public relations officials updated reporters on general morale, but officers from the St. Louis region's various police departments largely closed their ranks to outsiders.

However, some former officers have chosen to speak out about their experiences on the force. Terrell Carter, now a minister, artist and teacher, served as a cop for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department from 1997 to 2002. This year, he published a memoir of his years policing St. Louis' streets, Walking the Thin Blue Line: A Police Officer Turned Community Activist Provides Solutions to the Racial Divide.

We sat down with Carter this week to talk about St. Louis' police culture and how he thinks police could have better handled the Ferguson protests.

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Judge Throws Out Marijuana Charge After State Fails to Turn Over Dash-Cam Footage [UPDATE]

Categories: Crime, Police

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BND via YouTube
Dash-cam footage showed Highland police officer Charles Allen arresting Patrick Luchtefeld.
In most small-quantity weed busts, it's normal for the defendant to plead guilty, pay a fine and move on. Case closed. However, Patrick M. Luchtefeld, a 32-year-old Trenton, Illinois, resident, believed he had been unfairly profiled when a Highland, Illinois, cop arrested him in September during a traffic stop. The officer allegedly found a small baggy of weed near the car's passenger seat and charged Luchtefeld, who was not driving, with possessing between 2.5 and 10 grams of marijuana.

Luchtefeld didn't take the charge lying down, saying he'd been profiled because of his tattoos and prior convictions. He got a lawyer and filed a request under Illinois' Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the dash-cam footage of the arrest. He received four CDs containing the video several days later.

During the trial last month, Madison County prosecutors revealed they had no idea there was a recording of the arrest. Even stranger, the arresting officer, Charles Allen, testified that the dash-cam footage didn't exist.

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Detective Took AR-15 Rifle From Evidence for Photo Shoot, Drugs Possibly Missing As Well

Categories: Police

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Google Street View
The Brooklyn police department.
A police evidence locker doesn't work like a public library. Obviously, right?

Yet it seems a former detective for the Brooklyn, Illinois police department thought it would be okay if he borrowed an AR-15 assault rifle to hold during a photo shoot for the department's calender, and now an Illinois State's Attorney says other evidence -- including drugs and ammo -- are still missing.

On Wednesday, Illinois State Police and St. Clair County Sheriff's Department investigators raided the offices of the Village of Brooklyn, which houses the town's police department and administrative offices. Officers carried out boxes of documents, computers, weapons and other equipment, according to a report from KMOV (Channel 4).

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Darren Wilson Gives Speech to Non-Profit for Cops "Wrongly Accused in the Line of Duty"

Categories: Ferguson, Police

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Facebook via Hunt For Justice
Christopher Hunt, director of Hunt of Justice, welcomed Darren Wilson to speak to law enforcement supporters last weekend.
A St. Louis non-profit that raises funds for police officers' legal funds welcomed a very special guest to its annual trivia night on Saturday -- former Ferguson cop Darren Wilson.

Hunt for Justice director Christopher Hunt, who is also an officer with the St. Charles County Police Department, tells Daily RFT that Wilson made some brief remarks to open the organizations' yearly gala. According to Hunt, there is no recording of Wilson's remarks, but Hunt says Wilson did not mention anything about Ferguson.

Although Hunt For Justice has contributed an undisclosed sum to Wilson's legal defense in the past, Hunt says the funds collected Saturday will not go Wilson, and that he was not compensated in any way for speaking. Hunt declined to provide a dollar amount for how much money was raised during the trivia night.

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After Suspension, St. Louis Cop Indicted for Delivering Shotgun to Drug Dealers

Categories: Police

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via YouTube
A former SLMPD officer is accused of handing drug dealers a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun with a pistol grip, similar to the shotgun pictured here.
Amid a renewed national fixation on Ferguson, you may have missed the dramatic scandal now brewing inside the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

News outlets citing anonymous police sources report that the indictment of a recently-suspended SLMPD officer is just the tip of the iceberg of a criminal investigation into a local drug ring. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that as many as twenty civilians and several officers may be involved. So far, the investigation has focused on one former SLMPD patrolman: Don McGhee.

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