‘It felt like forever’ | Hall emotional as he describes assault during testimony Wednesday
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Visuals were at the forefront in the second day of the trial of former officers Dustin Boone and Christopher Myers. Only one person, Reuters and St. Louis American photographer Lawrence Bryant, captured images of Detective Luther Hall’s violent arrest. Everything that happened Wednesday morning centered on those pictures, as both the defense and prosecution believe they help their respective cases.
In the afternoon, Detective Luther Hall testified, and walked the court through the events of his assault during the protests. The day concluded with him taking the jury step-by-step through the video recording of the early moments of his attack. He will return to the stand Wednesday. Below are updates on the proceedings from the courthouse, with the most recent events listed first.
2:45 p.m. Hall testifies
In emotional testimony Wednesday, Detective Luther Hall once again walked the court through the weekend, then eventually the night, of his violent arrest.
He choked up several times as he described getting ready for work the night he was assaulted, and he apologized as he tried to steady his voice. He specifically said he did not carry a gun while working undercover in the protests, because he did not want to risk an officer finding it and shooting him because they thought he was a threat.
Hall’s partner, Lewis Naes, did carry his department-issue Beretta and police credentials in his backpack, and in fact had to reveal himself as an undercover officer when he was arrested the same night as Hall, but in a different location. Naes’ arresting officer searched his backpack and found Naes’ gun and credentials and demanded to know where they came from, so he told the officer who he was.
When asked why Hall didn’t feel like it was safe for him to bring a gun, but it was for Naes to do so, he was direct.
“Truthfully? I’m Black and Lew is white,” he said.
Hall looked directly at the jury while answering questions, and explained how he and Naes were livestreaming their activity so the Real Time Crime Center could monitor what they were doing. As the protesters began moving toward Washington Avenue, Hall was trying to give clues to anyone monitoring his feed about what was happening.
He described his efforts to get someone to move officers to the area, but said they were futile.
“At one point I yelled out where the f--- are you guys?!” he said, pausing to collect himself. “But no one came.”
It wasn’t until much later that Hall would learn no one was monitoring his feed.
Hall described the moments before the assault calmly, saying he moved with a group of protesters west, away from the public library and stopped at the corner of 14th and Olive. His plan was to cross the street into a park and contact his partner by phone, but he never made it.
A female officer appeared in front of him and told him to get on his knees. Hall said he got down on one knee, then suddenly felt weightless.
“It felt like someone picked me up, and I-” he paused, his voice wavering. “I was slammed into the ground.”
He described being lifted again and his face being slammed back into the concrete. What came next, he said, was an onslaught of abuse.
“Feet, fist, sticks. People punching me. I was being held down,” he said. “It felt like [it went on] forever laying there.”
Hall said he did not resist in any way, and had been complying with orders when he was slammed to the ground.
When prosecutors played the recording he captured - which covers the moments leading up to and the very beginning of the assault - Hall was visibly upset, casting his eyes down and drawing deep breaths. When asked a question, he took a moment to take a drink before answering.
The lead prosecutor froze the video on a frame of Christopher Myers, who was looking directly into the camera. It was one of the final images captured before the video shut off.
When he was eventually cuffed and sat on the curb, Hall said he knew he was injured, but not how bad.
“I was in a lot of pain,” he said, adding it was especially bad in his neck and his back.
Every time he tried to straighten his back, he said, an officer would put a shin guard into him and say “don’t [f------] move.” Hall identified Myers as that officer.
It was at that point Hall saw the screen of the cell phone he had been streaming from was shattered.
When asked why so few officers knew he and his partner were undercover that night, Hall said the less people know you’re in an undercover operation, the better. He did not identify himself as a policeman during any of his interactions with officers during the protests prior to his arrest, because he didn’t want bystanders to hear.
“Once one person knows, if they see you the next day, they will tell everyone else you are a policeman. Then you’re pretty much useless [for undercover work],” he said.
Hall had been arrested before during undercover work, usually when working narcotics operations. What happened during the Stockley protest was beyond anything he’s experienced before.
“You would get a smack or two, or thrown against a car,” he said recalling those previous instances.
He said he was never kicked or beaten before that night.
Before the prosecution finished their questions, the judge called a recess for the day. Hall will continue his testimony Thursday at 9 a.m.
11:40 a.m. FBI expert takes the stand
Bryant’s photos continued to dominate the early proceedings Wednesday. After the photographer left the stand, an FBI expert took the stand to explain how she identified Boone and Myers in the pictures during the investigation and how she tracked their movements using the photos.
By using distinguishing characteristics like equipment and slight uniform variations, the analyst was able to isolate the two officers. The lead prosecutor walked once again through dozens of photos second by second, only this time they were black and white with only Boone and Myers colorized.
Boone, who was highlighted in blue was identified by the analyst by his shiny helmet, two pieces of different color tape on the back of the helmet, and a metal ring on his hip. Myers was easier to identify, as his face is visible in many of the photos and he had rolled up sleeves. He was highlighted in red.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Constantin had the witness walk through the photos so the jury got a clearer picture of where each officer was during the event, and when they came in contact with Hall.
Constantin noted that both men are not visible for certain periods, both of which are more than a minute based on the timestamps on the photographs.
9:20 a.m. Photos at the forefront
Wednesday began with a detailed examination of nearly 100 photographs taken by Lawrence Bryant, a photojournalist working for the St. Louis American and Reuters the weekend of the Stockley protests.
Bryant was across the street taking photos when Hall was violently arrested, and though he said he saw him slammed to the ground, he did not capture that with his camera.
In fact, most of the photos, taken at night from a distance, show little but a throng of police officers around the area where Hall was arrested, with Hall mostly obscured. Some photos show a group of officers looking down in the area where Hall was taken to the ground, but the figure on the ground is difficult to make out.
Hall is not clearly visible until later, when he is already restrained. In the later photos, Bryant captured Hall on the ground with officers surrounding him, several of whom are restraining him with their hands.
Both the prosecution and the defense believe Bryant’s photos help their case, as Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Constantin argued in her opening remarks the pictures show Myers was present at the scene during the window in which Hall’s cell phone stopped recording, and Myers’ attorney Scott Rosenblum said the photos never show him damaging the phone.
The photos also show Boone present at the arrest, but his attorney had previously argued he arrived after the beating and only assisted until he was cuffed, because he believed Hall was someone resisting arrest. The photos do show Boone with his hands on Hall, but only once he was on the ground.
Bryant’s testimony lasted nearly two hours, as attorneys went frame-by-frame through dozens of photos and asked him detailed questions about the conditions under which he took them and what he saw versus what the camera captured.
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