Ray Mitchell lives on the south side of St. Louis, just a few blocks from the apartment building where Carlos Boles held his last stand.
"It was very scary," Mr. Mitchell told me. "Very scary."
In March, police tried to arrest Boles for charges that were filed last fall, but Boles opened fire on them, killing a U.S. Deputy Marshal, and wounding two other law enforcement officers. Boles had a long criminal record, including an assault conviction and several convictions for drug possession. According to the police report, on the day officers arrested him last October Boles was suspected of having illegal drugs. When police approached him, Boles punched one of the cops and choked him. After that, the officers repeatedly hit him with fists and batons, tazered Boles three times, and kicked him before finally getting the suspect under control. Boles also threatened to kill two officers.
Despite that, the arresting cops only filed for a misdemeanor charge and had no concrete evidence that Boles had illegal drugs. The prosecutor declined to file any charges. Boles was released. Then, police waited a month for lab results on the drugs found near Boles. The drugs turned out to be heroin. In November, the prosecutor filed felony charges and issued a warrant for Boles' arrest. In March, law enforcement officers finally went looking for him aggressively, and found him waiting for them with his guns blazing.
It was a horrible day, and it was the seed of our investigation. The more I learned about the Boles case, the more I wanted to know. If police waited a month for drug tests on a guy like Boles, who else was walking out of jail because a drug test wasn't done within 24 hours? How often did it happen? Why did it happen?
Our story doesn't answer every question about the St. Louis police lab, which is widely recognized as one of the best in the midwest. It tests thousands of pieces of evidence every year and turns the results much faster than the labs in many big city departments, including every major department in Missouri. Still, the changes in 24 hour testing are significant and deserve scrutiny, which is what we tried to do with this story.
Police Chief Dan Isom issued a statement yesterday. In part, it reads: "There is no crime lab in the state that processes the volume of drugs that we do, more quickly than we do." The Chief adds that his office is working with the Circuit Attorney to figure out ways to process cases more quickly. The Chief says the police department reviews every case to see if it should be listed as a priority for the lab. He says no matter how much attention police devote to this process, there's no way they can predict who will turn out to be a cop killer like Carlos Boles.
A second statement, issued on behalf of Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and Presiding Judge Jack Garvey explains that they won't be interviewed on-camera for our story in part because "to discuss any (open) case could jeopardize the the defendant's right to a fair trial, which could possibly result in an overturned conviction."
I believe we will soon see significant changes in the way police, prosecutors and judges communicate about these cases. Everyone seems to agree that the system has flaws, now they need to put their differences aside and come up with solutions that are workable for all levels of law and order in the city of St. Louis.