Three St. Louis police officers are facing prison after being charged with brutally beating a compliant protester in 2017 — a man who turned out to be an undercover cop.
The alleged beating took place in the protests that rose up in the Missouri city following the 2017 acquittal of the white police officer who shot and killed black man Anthony Lamar Smith. As Slate reported, the three officers are charged with beating the man and then conspiring to cover it by lying to a grand jury. The officers charged include Dustin Boone, Randy Hays, and Christopher Myers along with Bailey Colletta, who is accused of lying about the incident.
Police said Luther Hall, a black man who had been a member of the police force for 22 years, was beaten so badly that he was unable to eat and had a 2-centimeter hole torn through his face. He needed to undergo surgery to repair herniated discs in his neck and back and has still not been able to return to work more than a year after the beating, the Slate report noted.
The beating did not appear to be random, investigators claim. The group had allegedly shared text messages after the acquittal, apparently gleeful at the idea of beating protesters later.
“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” Boone allegedly wrote, adding, “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the h*ll out of these sh**heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!”
The protests exposed the rift between St. Louis police and members of the community. The officer who had been on trial, Jason Stockley, killed 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith after an alleged drug buy. As the Washington Post reported, Stockley was carrying an unauthorized AK-47 and was heard on a dash cam recording saying he was “going to kill” Smith. The chase ended when Smith’s car crashed, and Stockley fatally shot the man inside of his car.
WOAH: four St. Louis officers indicted on federal civi rights charges connected to unconstitutional crackdown on Sept. 2017 protests https://t.co/q1GmMBcf31— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) November 29, 2018
The new charges have led to more anger in the community, especially among leaders who say that the officers were only caught because it happened to be a fellow officer they assaulted.
“If it was not a police officer — and particularly a black police officer — who was the victim of this assault, would we be at this juncture?” the Rev. Darryl Gray, one of the protest organizers, told the Washington Post. “We’ve had several incidents of protesters and activists being the victims of excessive use of force and police abusing their authority without ever seeing charges like this.”
The St. Louis police officers charged with beating the protester could face decades in prison if convicted.