A 22-year-old man is in critical condition Thursday after he was shot during an apparent struggle with a police officer.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police chief Sam Dotson said the officer, a 27-year veteran of the department, pulled over a young man around 11:30 a.m. Thursday for running a red light. The officer had finished the traffic stop and was parked on McPherson east of Kingshighway doing paperwork when the man returned, parked behind him, got out of the car and began yelling at the officer.
"The officer had the presence of mind to activate his radio," Dotson said. "You can hear the individual yelling at the police officer, 'Why'd you give me the tickets; I'm going to have your job,' those kinds of things. And you can hear the officer saying, 'Step away from my car.'"
At some point, Dotson said, the officer got out of his car to arrest the 22-year-old on still-unknown charges. The young man allegedly resisted, ran back to his car, and sat down. A struggle took place at the car, during which the young man reached into the glove compartment of his car and pulled out a knife.
"The individual with his right hand attempts to open the knife several times, and at one point takes the closed knife and jabs it into the officer's chest several times," Dotson said. "Fearing that the individual is going to open the knife, and unable to break free of his grasp, the officer fires one shot in defense of himself at that point."
The one shot hit the 22-year-old in the chest, Dotson said. He said the officer immediately rendered medical aid. The man who was shot was taken to a local hospital where he was in critical condition. Dotson said the department recovered a knife at the scene.
Activists immediately began to question whether the officer needed to get out of the car in the first place.
.@RE_invent_ED the Ofc. escalated the situation by getting out and claiming reason to arrest. Citizens get angry-police don't have to engage
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) March 31, 2016
St. Louis Metropolitan PD doesn't require officers to de-escalate when possible. A man just got shot because of it. pic.twitter.com/u00HhL9tIM
— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) March 31, 2016
Kayla Reed, an organizer with the Organization for Black Struggle, said on Twitter that a person she said was an eyewitness told her the young man was trying to drive away.
The eyewitness is saying the car was in reverse so he was NOT holding the officer or reaching for anything in the glove compartment
— Kayla Reed (@RE_invent_ED) March 31, 2016
The police car was not equipped with a dash camera, and the officer involved was not wearing a body camera, Dotson said. He said officers are canvassing the area looking for neighborhood cameras. Just 84 of the department's cars have dash cameras, and a pilot program for body cameras that included 70 sergeants wrapped up earlier this month.
The officer, who is 51 year old, is on administrative leave and will undergo drug testing per the department's new policy. The department's Force Investigate Unit is conducting the investigation, and a spokeswoman for circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce said her office will do its own parallel investigation, rather than wait for the police to finish theirs.
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