Self-defense? News 4 Investigates after St. Louis Co man killed over grass clipping dispute

Still image from surveillance video of grass clippings dispute
Still image from surveillance video of grass clippings dispute
Published: Feb. 17, 2022 at 10:45 AM CST
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) -- A 29-year-old father was shot and killed in his driveway last summer in a dispute with his neighbor’s landscaper that started over grass clippings.

On June 6, 2021, Allen Waller was shot nine times. No one was charged. The shooters claim it was self-defense, but Waller’s family questions if it was something more.

“My child is dead, over grass,” Waller’s mom Kimaly said. “Four shots to his chest, two to his neck, a shot on his thigh.”

Surveillance video shows the grass cutter driving to Waller’s house. Inside the truck were his two brothers, a family friend, and several guns police say they had with them.

News 4 Investigates is not naming the grass cutter because he’s not been charged.

At Waller’s house cameras show the neighbor, grass cutter and one of the brothers approach.

“Y’all cut the grass over there or something?” Waller is heard on video asking as he walks out the door.

The four walk off camera to the driveway, where Waller showed them the grass clippings.

Later when questioned by police, the grass cutter, his brother, and Waller’s neighbor all said Waller pointed a gun and escalated things for no reason.

A 29-year-old father was killed Sunday after a dispute erupted between him and his neighbor’s landscaper.

“Pulls out a gun and cocks it back and says, ‘here’s the thing.’ Puts it to my brother’s head. At that point I do have a, I did have a gun on my hip. I could not make a move, or I would have,” the grass cutter told police in a recorded interview. “He had a gun to my brother’s head. I couldn’t make a move.”

The grass cutter, his brother and Waller’s neighbor all said Waller put the gun in his pants. Surveillance video shows another brother get out of the truck holding a gun. It’s at that point the grass cutter, brothers and neighbor said Waller reached for his weapon again.

“Why you pointing a gun at my brother? And he raises the gun up again and that’s when I shot him,” the brother who got out of the truck said during a recorded interview with police.

Both of the grass cutter’s brothers said they fired their guns.

“The man got out of this truck, came running up to him with that gun and stuck it like in his face right here and put it against his chest and he took one step back and just said boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Waller’s neighbor told police during a recorded interview.

The brothers took off, but Waller’s neighbor told police the brothers left her with a message.

“They told me to keep my f---- mouth shut and contact them when you all release me,” the neighbor told police.

None of the people outside during the shooting called 911.

“Instead of calling the police they knew me, and I was called immediately instead,” said Dramon Foster, the defense lawyer the three men hired.

A day after the shooting Foster says he called police and told them he’d bring his clients in for questioning.

“He was shot nine times, is that self-defense?” News 4 Investigates asked Foster.

“Well, the amount of times, I mean I know he was shot by two people at the same time,” Foster said. “He didn’t just say, ‘I have a weapon.’ He pointed it and had it at my client’s head with his finger on the trigger.”

Of the brothers, the grass cutter was the first to be interviewed by detectives. He told police he was armed, but never took out his gun.

“My brothers are my protectors, that’s who I call. That’s why I called them you know what I’m saying. Yeah I didn’t expect anything to go like that or it wouldn’t have been like that,” the grass cutter was recorded telling police.

In a St. Louis County Police investigative report, detectives noted that the grass cutter admitted that after the shooting he took the tags off his truck, deactivated his social media, threw away the clothes he’d been wearing, and deleted phone calls and text messages with Waller’s neighbor.

“Do you know why any of that was done?” News 4 Investigates asked Foster.

“I know they’d been getting threats and I know that they would want to protect themselves and not have anything that could tie or give a clue as to where they lived or any loved ones lived so they kind of went into survival mode,” Foster explained.

After the interview with the grass cutter, police suggested murder charges to the St. Louis County Prosecutor. Then the prosecutor’s office picked up the phone.

“Before you know it, they called and said, ‘no, you can go home’ because they had already determined this is self-defense. We’re not moving forward with this,” Foster recalled.

That call was made before the two brothers who admitted to shooting Waller were ever interviewed by police.

The two brothers still agreed to give statements to police, which is when video recordings were taken.

Then there’s the friend who stayed in the truck, which one of the brothers told police had a clear view of the driveway. Detectives hadn’t questioned him.

“It’s not even a complete investigation,” Waller’s mom Kimaly said.

Prosecutors did refer manslaughter charges to a grand jury, which decided not to indict.

Waller’s mom still wonders what was presented to the grand jury, an answer she’ll never get since those proceedings are confidential when there’s no indictment.

“We want a special prosecutor, we want someone to look into this, someone other than Wesley Bell’s office,” Waller’s grandmother, who asked not to be named, said.

News 4 Investigates tried to ask St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell about this case. Bell sent a statement saying it was “apparent the case presented a credible argument of self-defense and Mr. Waller, in fact, first flourished his weapon in a threatening manner.”

Ultimately prosecutors have discretion to file charges, even if a grand jury doesn’t indict. In order to bring charges, prosecutors would have to take their case to a trial judge.

In his statement, Bell went on to say if new evidence is presented in the case that his office hasn’t seen, he would review it. Until then, he said, he respects the decision of the grand jury.

“It is too many inconsistencies,” Kimaly said. “I’m going to continue to fight for my son’s justice.”

Waller’s neighbor talked to News 4 Investigates in an exclusive interview. She asked not to be named, saying she’s received multiple threats since the shooting. She said the day of the shooting wasn’t the first time Waller flashed a gun in their neighborhood.

“It’s upsetting to me that everybody is making it out to be this poor man died over grass clippings. That’s not why this man died. This man died because he made a poor decision. You cannot pull a gun and point it at someone’s head and expect that to be okay,” Waller’s neighbor said.

News 4 spoke exclusively to the landscaper seen in a video showing the moments before and after a Glasgow Village man was killed. He said the deadly shooting was in self-defense.

Bell’s complete statement reads:

“This a tragic case. However, it was clear the case was questionable from the start as to whether we could issue charges. As we reviewed the evidence, it became apparent the case presented a credible argument of self-defense and that Mr. Waller, in fact, first flourished his weapon in a threatening manner.

In light of that evidence, prior to when the case was brought to me, our team was inclined to not issue charges, and that moment in our process appears to have been communicated to a detective and included in the police report.

Given the severity of the potential charges and loss of life, however, I made the decision to present the case to the grand jury, a deliberative body of citizens tasked with reviewing the evidence and determining whether “probable cause exists” to formally charge an individual with a crime. Further, this would compel witnesses to testify under oath, a situation where there can be serious consequences if someone testifies untruthfully.

Upon reviewing all of the evidence in this case, the grand jury decided probable cause did not exist to issue charges. Please note that, at trial to find an individual guilty we are tasked with proving our case beyond a reasonable doubt. Probable cause simply requires a reasonable belief that a crime was more likely committed than not. Using this lesser standard, the grand jury elected not to issue charges.

It is not lost on me that a life was lost in this incident. I understand Mr. Waller’s family is upset, and I grieve with them. But my sense of grief cannot dictate whether evidence exists to charge someone. If additional evidence is presented to this office regarding this incident, we will review that evidence. Until that time, we respect the decision of the grand jury and appreciate their hard work and dedication in this vital function of the justice system.”