This post has been updated.
Details of the Wednesday night shooting of a black St. Louis teen by an off-duty police officer are still emerging, but the stories being told by the authorities and the teen’s family thus far seem to be almost irreconcilable.
Protesters quickly came out to protest the shooting, which occurred in south St. Louis near the Missouri Botanical Garden. One relative of the dead teen called it “Michael Brown all over again,” referring to the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of an unarmed black teen in suburban St. Louis in August that sparked fierce protests and drew national attention.
Here is what is being reported so far, most of it courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
St. Louis Police chief Sam Dotson provided a detailed description of the shooting, in which an off-duty police officer working for a private security firm (but was wearing his uniform) shot 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers, Jr., who has been identified by his family but not the police.
The officer had spotted three black males, who ran from him, and pursued one of them on foot.
“When the officer went through the gangway, he saw the three gentlemen had come back together,” Dotson said. “One of the gentleman started to approach the officer in an aggressive manner. The officer was giving verbal commands, telling them to stop, telling them how to surrender, telling them that they were under arrest. The suspect continued to come towards the officer until they got into a physical altercation. The suspect and the officer were hands on with each other. At that time, the suspect’s gray hooded sweatshirt comes off and the suspect starts to run up a hill at the address on Shaw.”
The officer believed he saw a gun on Myer’s person, but wanted to be sure, Dotson said.
“The suspect pointed the gun at the officer and fired at least three rounds at the police officer. We believe this to be true because there are three projectiles that we recovered with trajectories going towards the officer, down the hill, and one piece of ballistic evidence located behind the officer,” Dotson said. “At that point, the officer returned fire. As the officer moved towards the suspect, the suspect continued to pull the trigger on his gun.”
The officer fired 17 shots. It’s not clear how many times Myers was struck.
VONDERRIT MYERS, JR.
St. Louis police did not release much information overnight about Myers or formally identify him, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that the teen was set to stand trial next month for unlawful use of a weapon.
Myer’s family, however, is contending that he was unarmed and had been “Tased” by the officer prior to being shot.
Dotson had initially declined to provide information on Myers, but, while still refusing to identify him, then said that he was “no stranger to law enforcement” on Thursday, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The newspaper reported that Myers was set to stand trial in November on charges of unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest. As a condition of bail, he was supposed to be under house arrest and wearing an ankle bracelet. Nothing in his file suggested that he has previously broken the rules of his house arrest, according to the Post-Dispatch.
Myers’ family said that he had been unarmed and leaving a convenience store after buying a sandwich when he was caught up in a police chase that didn’t involve him, according to the newspaper, based on the family’s own discussions with witnesses.
“My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich. Security was supposedly searching for someone else. They Tased him,” Jackie Williams, his uncle, said. “I don’t know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That’s outright murder.”
The officer in the shooting has not been publicly identified. The police told the Post-Dispatch that the officer did not have a Taser, in response to the comments from Myers’s family.
The police said in a Thursday statement that the officer involved was a 32-year-old white male with six years of service. They noted that, while the officer wasn’t on duty, he still had the same authority “to affect arrest and the officer operates in the capacity as a St. Louis Police Officer.”
An investigation is ongoing, the statement said.
Correction: This story originally misstated the day of the shooting. It was Wednesday night, not Thursday night.