ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Four police officers with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) were indicted on Thursday in connection to the September 15, 2017 assault of a colleague who was working undercover and posing as a protester.
The officers, Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Christopher Meyers and Bailey Colletta were charged with various felony charges including deprivation of constitutional rights, conspiracy to obstruct justice, destruction of evidence and obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The indictment stated that leading up to the incident in 2017, there were protests throughout the City of St. Louis. In anticipation of said protests, SLMPD activated a protest-response unit: Civil Disobedience Team (CDT). Officers assigned to CDT, including Boone, Collette, Hays and Meyers, were tasked with controlling the crowd as needed and arresting individuals whom officers had probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.
The victim, referred in the indictment as L.H., also working during the protests, was an undercover capacity to record and document criminal activity so that SLMPD officers could lawfully arrest individuals, according to the indictment.
ACLU of Missouri, an organization which preserves and expands the constitutionals rights and civil liberties of all Missourians, spoke in regards to the indictment of the four officers on Thursday.
“Today’s indictment is an important step in addressing the culture that has allowed the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to consistently behave in an unconstitutional manner,” Tony Rothert, legal director at ACLU of Missouri said. “While these officers have been indicted for illegally abusing an undercover officer they mistook for a protestor, there has still been no real accountability for the individual officers who engaged in the same behavior toward protestors. St. Louis officials must address this rampant lawlessness by its police.”
The indictment is only an accusation of the officers, meaning that they are innocent until proven guilty.
For the time being, the St. Louis Police Officer Association (SLPOA) is referring any comment on the four indicted officers to their attorneys, according to Jeff Roorda, business manager of SLPOA.
“We can confirm that all four are members and that we are providing them with legal representation in order for them to have their day in court,” Roorda said. “We encourage elected officials, the media and the public to allow them their day in court without speculation about their guilt or innocence.”
Having the officers indicted is not enough for Senator Jamilah Nasheed, who represents the 5th Senatorial District. Nasheed issued a statement on Friday requesting that the officer’s licenses need to be suspended, saying that she is calling for “immediate action” from the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
“I am appalled by the unethical, out of control, and vicious behavior of these officers. The text messages released last night show these individuals were more interested in terrorizing our community than protecting it,” Nasheed said. “Their actions are unacceptable, and immediate steps must be taken to protect our streets and restore the integrity of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.”
Nasheed said that the four officers have shown that they are unable to uphold the standards of the St. Louis community, as well as any community. She said that until the investigation has proven otherwise, the community cannot allow the officers to transfer to another jurisdiction and “wreak their havoc elsewhere.”
According to Missouri Law, the Missouri Department of Public Safety Director has the authority to immediately suspend an officer’s license if that officer “is under indictment for, is charged with or has been convicted of the commissioner of any felony;” “is subject to an order of another state, territory, the federal government or any peace officer licensing authority suspending or revoking a peace officer license or certification” or “presents a clear and present danger to the public health or safety if commissioned as a peace officer.”
Missouri Department of Public Safety Director, Col. Sandy Karsten was named director by Governor Mike Parson on August 27, 2018. Karsten assumed the post on September 1st and was confirmed by the Missouri Senate on September 14th.
“The Missouri Department of Public Safety must immediately suspend these officers’ licenses pending the outcome of this case,” Nasheed said. “Continue to label incidents such as these ‘mistakes’ or calling them ‘friendly fire’ just won’t cut it. Until real and tangible steps are taken, the public’s trust in its police department will remain deeply damaged.”
The indictment shows that there are four counts in which the officers are being charged for. Count One, charging Boone, Hays and Meyers, carries a maximum of penalty of 10 years in prison. Count Two, charging Boone, Hays and Meyers; Count Three, charging Meyers and Count Four, charging Colletta, each carries maximum penalties of 20 years in prison. All four counts carry a maximum fine of $250,000.
“I wish to commend SLMPD leadership for its cooperation and the support of this investigation. Law enforcement and the public have a common interest in identifying and holding accountable those who dishonor the badge,” Richard Quinn, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI St. Louis Division said. “To that end, I am encouraging people to contact the FBI if you are a witness in this case.”
The case is being investigated by the St. Louis Division of the FBI. It is also being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Reginald Harris of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold and Trial Attorney Emily Savner of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Criminal Section.