A St. Louis police officer was left permanently disabled and is now "drowning in bills," according to his attorney, after being shot by a fellow officer while off-duty. Officers were trying to apprehend three suspects who had reportedly shot at them while fleeing in a stolen vehicle. The officer has filed a federal lawsuit against the city as well as the officer who shot him.
The incident occurred in front of the officer's home in the North Pointe neighborhood in June 2017. He was working on a neighbor's car when the people driving the stolen vehicle crashed nearby and ran from police. One of them turned his gun on the off-duty officer and his neighbor, who were in their shared driveway.
The officer says he pulled his gun on the suspect and identified himself as a police officer. As that man fled, he says officers approached him, giving him contradictory orders. He says he dropped his weapon and again identified himself as a police officer, but was shot in the arm by one of those officers.
The wounded officer, who is African American, says he believes that the white officer who shot him wouldn't have done so had he also been white. He told a local reporter he was holding his badge in his hand and his gun was pointed toward the ground when the officer shot him. He noted that "the other officers were calm. The detective told them who I was and told them not to shoot." The lawsuit notes, "The racial implications of how [the officer] has been treated cannot be ignored."
The officer remains on medical leave because he can't grip anything with his wounded arm. According to the suit, his pension claim still hasn't been resolved, so he's struggling to keep his home and support his children.
The suit also claims that the police department "has not handled its investigation…with any solemnity." The father of the shooter's partner was placed in charge of the investigation. The wounded officer says he's never been interviewed. The officer who shot him was placed on administrative leave and has left the department.
Police departments and the government entities in charge of them can and should be held responsible for their officers' actions. They also have an obligation to make things right, to the extent possible, for those who are wrongfully injured at their hands.