Trooper Who Blew the Whistle in Ozarks Drowning Case Demoted, Transferred

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Brandon Ellingson (left, with friend Brody Baumann) at the Lake of the Ozarks in 2012, two years before his tragic drowning death.
Courtesy Brody Baumann

The Missouri Highway Patrol sergeant who spoke out in the case of an Arizona State student who drowned in May 2014 while handcuffed and in his department's custody at the Lake of the Ozarks has been demoted and transferred. Sergeant Randy Henry is a veteran of the department with more than 29 years of experience, says his attorney, Chet Pleban, and no history of serious infractions. But on June 10, just one week after being deposed in a civil case filed by the dead man's family against the highway patrol, Henry was informed that he was being demoted to corporal.

Henry was also told he'd be transferred to the Truman Lake area -- an hour-and-a-half drive from his family's home.

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Dog Killed in South County SWAT Raid Was "Charging to Attack," Police Report Claims

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Image via
One of Angela Zorich's sons relaxing with Kiya the pit bull
Here's an update on the lawsuit filed last week by Angela Zorich, the South County woman who claims tactical police killed her dog when they raided her home in 2014 to investigate building code violations.

Daily RFT has obtained documents that appear to be the police's own incident reports. They tell the cops' side of the story, which boils down to this: The family was considered "a nuisance" by neighbors, and during the raid, Kiya, the four-year-old pit bull, was "charging to attack" as they shot her.

See also: St. Louis County SWAT Team Killed Family Dog Over Code Violation, Suit Says

Zorich insists in her suit that, on the contrary, Kiya didn't even have time to bark before being killed.

And interestingly, by the cops' own telling, the dog was 12 feet from the officers when they opened fire and killed her. They also acknowledge in the report that they'd entered the home without knocking, even though they were investigating code violations. Their justification: They believed the residents had "extensive violent history" and were known to be armed.

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Black Drivers in St. Louis Charged with Resisting Arrest at Four Times the Rate of White Drivers

Categories: Police

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Courtesy of Flickr/Thomas Hawk
Empower Missouri has crunched data on the state's 1.6 million traffic stops in 2014.

Black drivers pulled over by law enforcement in the city of St. Louis in 2014 were four times more likely be charged with resisting arrest than white drivers. In St. Louis County, they were more than twice as likely to face such charges.

That's according to an analysis by Empower Missouri, which drilled down statewide statistics collected by the Missouri Attorney General's Office. Those same statistics led to a report from the office yesterday showing that black drivers were 75 percent more likely to be pulled over by police than their white counterparts.

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Black Drivers Were 75 Percent More Likely to Be Stopped Than White Ones, AG Says

Categories: Police

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Photo courtesy of Flickr/robotpolisher
Black drivers were significantly more likely to be stopped by police in Missouri in 2014 than white drivers, a new report from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has found.

In fact, the state's disparity index between black and white drivers -- which describes the difference between the rate at which members of each racial group are stopped, as measured against its share of the driving-age population -- is the highest it's been since Missouri began tracking that number in 2000, the AG says.

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STL County Police Dispatcher Recalls Ferguson: "Some of the Craziest Stuff I've Ever Heard"

Categories: Ferguson, Police

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Danny Wicentowski
Rick Kranz will listen to your problems -- and send help.
There's a call coming in for Rick Kranz.

"911 St. Louis County. Location of your emergency?"

On the line is a hotel desk clerk. In a thick accent, she says a guest needs immediate medical attention. No, she doesn't know what the medical issue is. She only knows that the guest is a woman, she's in room 126 and needs an ambulance.

"Let me get the paramedics on the phone, do not hang up," says Kranz, a watch supervisor for the St. Louis County Police Department. He swivels in a towering leather office chair to face three computer monitors. In seconds, he hammers out a few keystrokes and routes the call through the fire department to reach emergency medical services, or EMS. As he listens to a paramedic question the hotel clerk, Kranz sends updates to a radio dispatcher sitting on the other side of this sprawling, cubicle-filled call center in the basement of county police headquarters in Clayton.

Barely one minute after taking the call, an officer confirms with Kranz that he's heading to the hotel to assist the paramedics. Kranz hangs up the phone.

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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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