O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) – A white police detective in the suburbs of St. Louis who was caught on video apparently hitting a black suspect with a police SUV and then kicking and beating the man was charged on Wednesday with two assaults and armed criminal actions.
Special Prosecutor Tim Lohmar announced the charges against 31-year-old Florissant Detective Joshua Smith, who was fired on June 10. The violent arrest on June 2 came amid nationwide protests and unrest caused by the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd.
“Such situations hate good agents because everyone looks bad,” Lohmar said at a news conference.
About a third of Florissant’s 51,000 inhabitants are black. The suburb of St. Louis is just north of Ferguson, where Michael Brown’s death from a white cop in 2014 was a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement. The St. Louis region has been the site of dozens of protests since Floyd’s death on May 25.
The arrest happened a day after four police officers were shot in St. Louis and a retired police officer in St. Louis was fatally shot on a violent night in the city. Florissant police chief Timothy Fagan has said Smith was on duty because of the civil unrest in the area.
Officers chased a vehicle occupied by three men because it had been seen near a previous shooting incident, Florissant Mayor Tim Lowery said. The chase ended on a residential street in nearby Dellwood.
What happened next was captured by a resident’s doorbell camera and posted online shortly after by media outlet Real STL News.
Lawyers for the 20-year-old man who was beaten released a second video Tuesday, from another home’s security camera, closer and from a different angle. It shows a car slowing down a residential street. Two men in the front jump out of the car that is still driving, before a third man jumps out of the back seat.
The unmarked police SUV appears from behind the car and drives across a section of the front yard, hitting the third man and hitting him in the driveway, screaming loudly in pain. A cop gets out of the SUV and appears to kick the man on the floor and hit him while the man yells, “Okay! OK! OK! “And repeatedly says,” I have nothing. “
“When you see the second video, it is clear that he accidentally ran into him and used the vehicle as a weapon,” said the man’s lawyer, Jerryl T. Christmas ,. “It’s hard to watch and hard to listen to the audio because of the way it screams and screams.”
One of the charges against Smith is a crime, the other a crime. The armed criminal charge, a felony, was brought in because the officer used the vehicle as a weapon, Lohmar said, calling it a “4,000-pound missile.”
The sentence for both crimes is 10 to 30 years in prison, Lohmar said. Anyone convicted of armed criminal action should serve a minimum of three years’ imprisonment.
Smith’s lawyer, Scott Rosenblum, said an accident happened. He did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment on Wednesday.
According to Smith’s police report, the man shot ahead of him and tried to dodge to miss him, Lohmar said.
“The video evidence just proves that this is clearly incorrect,” said Lohmar.
Fagan said the man had been hospitalized for an ankle injury, but Christmas said his injuries were much worse. He said the man’s leg was “shattered” and multiple surgeries were required.
“He’s traumatized,” said Christmas.
Fagan said the police are suing the three men for possession of drug attributes and opposition to arrest. No weapons were found on the men or in their cars.
In addition to Lohmar’s investigation of the officer, U.S. attorney Jeff Jensen said his office, the Department of Civil Rights at the Department of Justice and the FBI are also reviewing the case to determine whether a federal response is warranted.
The arrest sparked a number of peaceful protests outside police headquarters in Florissant, including a “die-in” in which participants were lying on their backs with their hands on their backs. A few dozen protesters also gathered outside Lohmar’s office on Monday, urging Smith to be prosecuted.
Fagan called it “a sad day for the Florissant police, but an important day for the community.”
It is not the first time that Smith has been accused of using a vehicle to arrest him.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that as of 2017, Brent J. Johns had filed three federal lawsuits alleging that Smith used his patrol car to ram Johns ‘vehicle, even though Johns’ hands were up and out the window. Johns said another officer hit, stamped, and used an anesthetic gun on him.
The lawsuits were consolidated and later dismissed by the judge.
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