ST. LOUIS, MO — Four St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers have been indicted in federal court after a grand jury said they beat an undercover officer at a protest last September then lied and destroyed evidence to cover it up, the Post-Dispatch reports. Officers Dustin Boone, 35, Bailey Colletta, 25, Randy Hays, 31, and Christopher Myers, 27, have been suspended without pay, officials said.
The police department is also facing more than a dozen lawsuits for alleged misconduct during last year’s protests following the acquittal of white police officer Jason Stockley for murder in the shooting death of black motorist Anthony Lamar Smith.
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The Rev. Darryl Gray alleges police threw him to the ground, breaking his glasses as they arrested him, the Post-Dispatch reported in October. Another protester, Calvin Kennedy, says police tased him without warning and without issuing any commands, while photographer and livestreamer Heather de Mian says she was pepper sprayed indiscriminately.
Many bystanders said they were swept up in a police “kettle;” that is, they were arrested en masse after being told to disperse and prevented from doing so by police. They include a photographer who says police destroyed more than $6,000 worth of his equipment, two Air Force officers, and former Post-Dispatch reporter, Mike Faulk, who said he was tackled and pepper sprayed despite wearing a prominent press badge.
None of those allegations have resulted in criminal charges. However, it appears police went too far when they assaulted a fellow under-cover officer.
According to court documents, the four named officers threw their unnamed colleague — identified as L.H. — to the ground, repeatedly kicking and beating him despite the fact that he was being compliant.
Prosecutors say the officers also destroyed L.H.’s cellphone to further cover up their crime and further detailed incriminating text messages between the accused officers on the night of the protest.
“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!!” Boone wrote on September 15, according to court documents. “But it’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s***heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!”
In other text messages, he called beating protesters “a blast,” and bragged, “we start beating the shit out of everyone on the street after we give two warnings.”
In one exchange, Hays texted Boone: “…going rogue does feel good, but I’ve been elected to be teh driver of a Tahoe, so if I get involved, s*** has hit the fan.”
“Well f***,” Boone responded. “LOL. I should probably stay in check as well.”
“Remember,” Hays then cautioned, “we are in south city. They support us but also cameras. So make sure you have an old white dude as a witness.”
Nonetheless, St. Louis public Safety director Jimmie Edwards said he is proud of the officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, calling them “dedicated and professional public servants” in a prepared statement.
“In a few instances, some officers have fallen short of the professionalism required to work in our police department,” he continued, calling Boone, Coletta, Hayes and Myers “outliers.”
But Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, said the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has consistently behaved in an unconstitutional manner. His group is responsible for many of the lawsuits stemming from the protests.
“While these officers have been indicted for illegally abusing an undercover officer they mistook for a protester, there has still been no real accountability for the individuals officers who engaged in the same behavior toward protesters,” Rothert said. “St. Louis officials must address this rampant lawlessness by its police.”
De Mian, the livestreamer who was pepper sprayed at one of the protests, told Patch she wouldn’t call the officers outliers either, citing recently-released video of police body camera footage from a 2014 protest that shows county police beating and Macing state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. as well as video she’s taken that she says documents police indiscriminately Macing protesters.
“This is a systemic problem that crosses through many police departments in the area,” De Mian said.
Photo: St. Louis police respond to demonstrators protesting the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in September 2017. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)