A St. Louis mother is demanding answers after News 4 showed her a photo that appears to depict the scene of her son's death.
Her attorney calls the photo: "hideous."
For months, Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager has been digging into serious questions raised by the picture, questions about an officer's conduct and the handling of evidence.
On August 8, 2016, Kim Staton's son, 28-year-old Omar Rahman, was found dead in a home in Pine Lawn. The North County Police Cooperative responded. The Medical Examiner has since ruled it an accidental drug overdose. But Staton says ever since her son's death, she's heard little from police.
“I really don't know, actually, what happened to my son,” she said.
Now she says she's hurt even more. Weeks after Rahman's death, a photo, appearing to depict the scene of her son’s death, was leaked out. The date; August 8, the date of Rahman's death.
News 4 has blurred the body and also chosen to conceal the North County Cooperative officer, since no wrongdoing has been determined.
He is wearing gloves, holding onto the arm of the body and giving a thumbs up.
“In your mind, is there any reasonable explanation for what that officer was doing?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “No,” said Staton. “Because when they come to a call, they're supposed to be there to help and protect, not doing what he was doing with thumbs up and a smirk on his face.”
Staton's attorney, Antonio Romanucci, agrees.
“It's hideous. The implications of this photograph are just astronomical,” said Romanucci.
He believes something isn't right.
“I have seen thousands and thousands of forensic photographs, I have never seen a staged photograph of an officer next to a deceased body,” Romanucci said.
Now, he wants a complete investigation by an agency other than the Co-op.
“Who was there that allowed this to go on? Was there any Sergeant involved? Those are the questions that need to be asked and that's what needs to be found here,” Romanucci said.
Questions are now swirling, too, about how this photo got out. Staton says after News 4 got involved police told her their official crime scene camera had been missing for a time and that pictures were also gone.
"Had you not received that photograph we wouldn’t know this. We would never have known this,” said Romanucci.News 4 wanted answers from the head of the North County Co-op. Chief Tim Swope refused to go on-camera, saying that they were conducting an internal and external investigation into "the totality" of the situation. The chief has declined News 4’s repeated offers to show him the photo.
News 4 sat down with former St. Louis Chief Dan Isom for an expert's opinion.
“If the police department doesn't even know how it's been released, then certainly, that's a problem," said Isom.
After taking a look at the photo, he says it's just unclear exactly what the officer's doing.
“I don't know why he's raising his thumb in the air, I don't know what he's doing at that point, I can't explain why you would be doing that in the photo, but certainly there are reasons why a person might turn a body over, view it, for signs of trauma,” Isom said.
Either way, the department, he says, needs to get to the bottom of it.
“The fact that the photo is out is just problematic, so even if you can't determine the intentions of the officer, which by the photo, look questionable, you certainly are distressed and concerned that it's out in the public,” Isom said.
He also says he has no idea why Chief Swope has declined to see it.
“As a chief would you want to see the picture before you make that determination?” asked Trager. “See it, talk to the officer, get all the information relative to why they were there," Isom said.
Romanucci is now weighing a lawsuit against the Co-op to get more information.
“I think we should be investigating this together. I think the public needs to know about this,” Romanucci said.
Staton is wanting to know more, for her son's sake.
“That's what I am looking for, I'm looking for some answers,” Staton said.
News 4 sent a message on Facebook to the officer we believe is depicted in the photo, but he did not respond.
A lawyer for the North County Police Cooperative (NCPC) threatened KMOV-TV for reporting on this photograph, claiming it was "stolen property," and stating that "NCPC does not believe it is appropriate to comment on a matter related to 2 open criminal investigations."
You can find the attorneys' letters here.
Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved