ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Four St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers indicted by a federal grand jury for their part in the arrest and beating of another officer who was working undercover during protests in the city in September last year entered not guilty pleas Thursday.
The officers have been suspended without pay, the police department said and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said her office has been forced to dismiss 91 cases involving the officers.
Those protests occurred after the acquittal of former SLMPD officer Jason Stockley on a first-degree murder charge September 15, 2017.
The protests sparked outrage from some members of the community after police deployed a crowd-containment tactic known as “kettling.” Officers were also heard shouting, “Whose streets? Our streets.”
Officers Dustin Boone, Bailey Colletta, Randy Hays, and Christopher Myers were indicted in federal court Thursday. Prosecutors say all four officers were working for the department’s Civil Disobedience Team on September 17, 2017, tasked with controlling the crowd as needed.
The victim in the case against the four officers was also assigned to work undercover to record and document criminal activity. The officer is referred to as L.H. in court documents.
The indictment alleged that Boone, Hays, and Myers violated L.H.’s constitutional rights when they used unreasonable force against him. The indictment also says Boone, Hays, and Myers threw L.H. to the ground and then kicked and struck him while L.H. was compliant and not posing a physical threat to anyone.
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It is believed that the officers did not know L.H. was a fellow officer and mistook him for a member of the crowd.
Authorities said they obtained text messages in which some of the officers talked about having fun beating up protesters.
The indictment also charges Boone, Hays, and Myers with conspiracy to obstruct justice for conspiring and agreeing to engage in misleading conduct toward witnesses to prevent information about their conduct from reaching federal authorities.
Additionally, the indictment charges Myers with destruction of evidence for destroying L.H.’s cell phone.
Lastly, Colletta is charged with corruptly attempting to obstruct, influence and impede federal grand jury proceedings by engaging in misleading assertions and false statements when she testified before the grand jury.
Boone and Hays could receive up to 30 years in prison. Myers faces up to 50 years in prison and Colletta faces 20 years in prison, according to the indictment.
Friday morning, all four defendants made their first court appearance and were released pending their next court date.
Friday State Senator Jamilah Nasheed released a statement calling for all four officer's licenses to be suspended.
“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,” Sen. 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.
These four officers have shown an inability to uphold the standards our community, and any community, demands of its police force. Until this investigation proves otherwise, we cannot allow them to simply transfer to another jurisdiction and wreak their havoc elsewhere.
The Missouri Department of Public Safety must immediately suspend these officers’ licenses pending the outcome of this case. 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.”
Public Safety Director Judge Jimmie Edwards released a statement on the indictments, saying:
“The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is filled with dedicated and professional public servants who do exceptional work, and I am proud of them. In a few instances, some officers have fallen short of the professionalism required to work in our Police Department. I take accountability and transparency very seriously. When a public safety employee acts outside the scope of their authority, it is imperative that they be held accountable to the fullest extent under the law. I believe officers Boone, Coletta, Hayes, and Myers are outliers and that the charges levied against them are isolated and not indicative of our Police Department."
Mayor Lyda Krewson also released a statement:
We expect professionalism from every City employee. No exceptions. The charges brought against these officers today do not reflect the standards we hold ourselves to as public servants.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner released the following statement:
The alleged actions of these four officers indicted today on federal charges is disheartening, as both a prosecutor and citizen of this community. Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system.
As Circuit Attorney, I have the responsibility to defend the integrity of the criminal justice system. With the ongoing knowledge of this federal investigation, we have been forced to dismiss 91 cases involving these four officers. We will continue to review additional cases where these officers’ testimony or involvement is fundamental.
Law enforcement officers must be held to the highest standards of conduct. When they breach the trust of the community, they must be held accountable. We commend U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen and his team on their courage to aggressively address these difficult issues.
The alleged conduct of these officers should not be used to tarnish the service of the hardworking men and women who honorably serve the residents of the City of St. Louis on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Boone has been an officer since 2016, Hayes has been an officer since 2011, and Myers has been an officer since 2015. It was not immediately known how long Colletta has been employed with SLMPD.
Jeff Roorda with the St. Louis Police Officers Association released the following statement:
For the time being, the SLPOA is referring any comment on the four indicted St. Louis Police Officers to their attorneys. 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. We encourage elected officials, the media and the public to allow them their day in court without speculation about their guilt or innocence.
The indictments only address the officers’ conduct in regards to officer L.H. Close to two dozen federal lawsuits have been filed from other civilian individuals including a St. Louis city aldermen and members of the activist community. Those lawsuits are still pending.
In August, News 4 reported about an “exclusion list,” in which 28 city officers were excluded as witnesses from future cases. A law enforcement source confirms to News 4 that the four officers indicted are on that list.
Arch City Defenders released the following statement about the indictments:
Today’s charges support what we and our clients have known for months about how SLMPD officers conducted themselves during the Stockley protests. It is obvious from the officers’ own words that they fully intended to, and did, brutalize people who were doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights. There is no reason to believe that it was only these four officers engaged in such misconduct, and it is unfathomable that a single undercover officer was the only victim. We represent clients who were also violently attacked, who also suffered, and who also demand justice for that suffering. We fully expect to see more indictments representing many more victims who survived this state violence and police abuse just over a year ago.
The ACLU of Missouri released a statement about the indictments:
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. 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 individuals officers who engaged in the same behavior toward protestors. St. Louis officials must address this rampant lawlessness by its police.