Fatal Police Shooting in St Louis

October 8, 2014 11:25 p.m.

We’re trying to put together the basic details of what happened. But quick overview: in the city of St Louis tonight, a member of the St Louis Metropolitan Police shot and killed an 18 year old man, Vonderrick Myers Jr., after an encounter, the nature of which remains in dispute.

Police say the dead man had a gun and fired at the officer; witnesses and family members dispute that.

The shooting took place near the Missouri Botanical Gardens. (Here’s the early report from the Post-Dispatch.)

As chance would have it, a close family member of mine lives a block away from where the shooting took place. They were able to talk with witnesses and bystanders and family members of Myers’ who were standing around the scene of the shooting no more than 15 minutes after it happened. The accounts are mixes of eyewitness accounts and accounts that circulated through the small crowd – in other words, hearsay, but close on the events as they happened. This version of the story is inevitably cut through with hearsay and needs to be viewed in that context. But it is notable and important because it comes from the first minutes after the shooting took place.

The two salient points from these accounts are that they a) disputed that the dead man, Myers, had a gun and b) suggested that Myers happened upon a chase already underway as he walked out of a corner store.

The Post-Dispatch has this account, which overlaps in some ways but differs dramatically in others …

Police said the uniformed officer was working a secondary job for a private security company when he encountered four pedestrians in the Shaw neighborhood and stopped to talk with them at about 7:30 p.m.

The four fled and the officer chased one, a man believed to be in his 20s, Assistant Chief Alfred Atkins said.

The man the officer was chasing jumped from some bushes and struggled with the officer, Atkins said. The man then pulled a gun and fired at the officer, Atkins said. The officer returned fire and fatally shot the man.

The PostDispatch account suggests that one of the men being chased, hide behind some bushes and then jumped out at the police officer, triggering the fatal confrontation. Witnesses and family members say the dead man happened on the chase – one he had nothing to do with.

You can see how these might be fragmentary accounts of the same events. Perhaps the police officer thought Myers was one of the people they were already chasing and acted on that basis. Other details are too contradictory to be from two truthful (or nearly truthful) accounts of the same events. For instance, at least some eyewitnesses said the dead man was tased prior to being shot. That either happened or it didn’t. It can’t be reconciled with the initial police accounts of what happened.

This is what I was told not by an eyewitness but by someone who’d spoken to eyewitnesses and family members within about 15 minutes of the shooting. So it’s a pastiche of various accounts.

He was leaving the corner store with a sandwich, a pickle and some other food. When he came outside, the sec officer had already been chasing after some other kids, he stopped chasing those kids and told him to stop, too. Instead he ran across the street into the gangway. The sec officer chased him, tased him. Shot him 16 times. The people standing outside as the cops were investigating were saying “they’re gonna plant a gun on him.”

That is quite different from this statement just released by the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

I want to stress: everything here should be taken as tentative and subject to change as more becomes known. But we do appear to have the kernel of two very different accounts of what transpired.

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