Fatal Shooting By Off-Duty St. Louis Police Officer Sets Off Protest In Shaw Neighborhood
Updated at 1:40 p.m. with additional information.
A St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer working a second job with a private security company shot and killed a young black man, 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr. The incident happened in the Shaw neighborhood in south St. Louis Wednesday night and drew a tense crowd that shouted at police and beat on their cruisers.
St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson told reporters that the unidentified officer, who is white, was patrolling the neighborhood in the car of a local security company, Hi-Tech Security, when three young black men, including Myers, caught his attention near the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Klemm Street around 7:30 p.m. When the officer made a U-turn to investigate further, the three men fled.
Dotson did not say specifically what made the officer suspicious about the three men in the first place, but said the officer believed Myers was carrying a gun by the way he ran when he fled.
The officer caught up to Myers and the two others in a gangway in the 4100 block of Shaw, ordering them to surrender and saying they were under arrest. Dotson said Myers continued to advance toward the officer, and a physical struggle ensued, during which Myers had his sweatshirt pulled off, revealing what turned out to be a 9mmRuger pistol. Myers then pointed the weapon at police, Dotson said, and fired three times before his gun jammed. The officer returned fire, discharging his own weapon 17 times.
Even though the officer was off-duty when the shooting occurred, he was placed on administrative leave per SLMPD policy. The department said the officer was 32 years old and had been on the force for about six years. His name was not released.
You can read additional details about the incident that St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department provided Thursday.
Additional information on 10/8 officer-involved shooting in the 4100 block of Shaw: pic.twitter.com/garczVI0k8
— St. Louis, MO Police (@SLMPD) October 9, 2014
A large crowd gathered at the corner of corner of Klemm Street and Shaw Boulevard, chanting and yelling at police. Many in the crowd believed Myers was only carrying a sandwich and questioned why the officer had to shoot so many times. When the crime scene tape that had been blocking traffic was removed, crowds surged onto Shaw, surrounding police vehicles and beating on the cars' hoods. Several police cars suffered damage. There were also additional shots fired, though no one else appeared to be injured.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson praised his officers for showing restraint during what were at times tense protests.
“Our approach this evening has been to stop traffic, divert traffic, allow them to have their point of view heard and we’ll continue to do that," Dotson said.
Around midnight, the protesters began marching on South Grand Boulevard, east of where the shooting took place. Police initially blocked off traffic at South Grand and Interstate 44, before allowing both protesters and cars to move freely. Another group of protesters began to block off the intersection of South Grand and Shaw around 1:30 a.m.
Dotson said the police mission included a commitment to "protect the rights of those individuals who wanted to be heard."
The incident happened just before the two-month anniversary of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man who was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson on August 9. There is a series of protests and other activities scheduled in his honor over the weekend.
The Shaw neighborhood has had six crimes involving guns between January and August this year, according to St. Louis police crime statistics.
On a neighborhood message board, Alderman Steve Conway wrote that "we all share our heartfelt sorrow at this loss of life. This is a sorrowful time for the family of the man that died." He said he was reaching out to clergy of neighborhood churches to host a prayer vigil.