Off-Duty Police Officer Kills Sandwich Wielding Teen In Saint Louis

Apparently sandwiches are deadly weapons, at least according to the St. Louis police department. An off-duty officer shot, and killed, a local teenager, Vonderrit Myers, around 7:30 pm Wednesday, several miles from where Michael Brown was killed last August in Ferguson, Missouri. This officer, off-duty and doing a second job as a security officer, claimed he was shot at, and chased his suspects through the St. Louis suburb after he attempted a pedestrian check.

The eyewitnesses to the scene claim that Vonderrit was not carrying a weapon — the claims given so far are that he was in fact carrying a sandwich. According to his cousin Teyonna Myers, who was a witness to her kin’s death,

He was unarmed. He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again.

In contrast, the police department has issued a statement that they have recovered a handgun from the scene. The initial report did not indicate if it was a weapon held by the victim, or of the officer, or possibly from someone unrelated to the shooting, but later on indicated that the police believed that Vonderrit did wield this weapon. They have not as of yet released the name of the officer, bringing more reminders of the Michael Brown case where it took the threat of public exposure by the hacktivist group Anonymous before the name of Darren Wilson was publicly released.

The reports have also claimed that the officer shot at Vonderrit 16 times, in a residential neighborhood. Doing so, he acted in complete disregard for the safety of bystanders and put multiple lives at risk. The use of firearms in a densely populated area is severely restricted by officers nationwide, as the death of bystanders is more common than the effectiveness of weapons fire in apprehending suspects. Of course the police try to blame the suspects, but this does not work too well.

Even more alarming, this came shortly after another shooting earlier that day in the area, where the shooter in that case was very close to the state senator from the area.

Already, crowds have gathered in Ferguson, and the protests which had begun to slowly dissipate have been enraged anew. The Anonymous twitter feed for Ferguson roared back to importance with alarming alacrity. But this time, the police appeared to have learned the lessons from months prior, and have given a wide berth to the protesters. As a local writer to the area tweeted,

 

Now, if these renewed protests stay peaceful or not, that depends on one man, the Police Chief of Ferguson Missouri, Thomas Jackson.

Chief Thomas Jackson, this is a second chance for you to demonstrate if you are there to serve and protect, or to harass and abuse. So far, by not harassing the protestors, you have made a good start, and let us hope it continues this way.

If the tables were turned, any police department would have Vonderrit in jail pending an investigation. It is not asking for much for the officer to be suspended from duty for an investigation. The taking of a life is supposed to be the aberration, not the standard. But in this country, the standard is that the police will be given carte blanche to kill wantonly so long as the victim’s skin happens to be of a darker shade. That is the stare of America today. And we today have the opportunity to change that.

UPDATE — An earlier version of the article had mixed up data from the two shootings which happened three hours apart in the same area, one in Ferguson and this one in St Louis. We apologize for the confusion caused by this.

In addition, the St. Louis police department had already presented to the media their statement on the case. The officer is being investigated in relation to this case. This comes as a stark contrast to the aftermath over the shooting of Michael Brown. By issuing a statement right away, Chief Dotson has already demonstrated a far better awareness of the severity of the situation.

UPDATE 2 — The results of the autopsy on Vonderrit state that he was shot 5 times, which means that the officer missed 12 times in his attempt to kill the teenager. In addition, there was no mention of gunpowder residue on Vonderrit’s hands.

The owner of a nearby market has confirmed that Vanderrit had purchased a turkey sandwich 10 minutes before his untimely demise.

The police also reported that the weapon they claim was fired by Vanderrit was a 9mm Smith and Wesson, which was stolen on September 26th. They recovered three shells on the scene to back this up. The problem comes in that the weapon that was reported earlier as the recovered weapon is a completely different make and model, manufactured by Ruger, as one can hear in the public statement above. There has as of yet been no report evidencing fingerprint evidence on the recovered firearm which ties it to Vonderrit.

Vonderrit was arrested earlier in the year on a weapons charge, and was out on bond.

The inconsistency of the police report over the weapon brings to mind several earlier cases for the St. Louis Police Department, where officers were found to have planted or tampered with evidence. In May, a man recorded as one officer told him that if he resisted, they would kill him and plant a .38. And it was not that long ago that Officers Bobby Lee Garrett, Shell Sharp, Vincent Carr, Leo Liston, and William Noonan were found to have falsified evidence and reports, resulting in multiple cases being thrown out. Weapons, drugs, cash, they would plant whatever evidence was needed to get the results needed.

There is also the question of how the officer could have fired so many rounds from a police issue pistol in such a short order. According to the manufacturer, the model of pistol which is standard issue for the St. Louis Police Department can only hold 15 rounds. But the police statement is that the officer fired 17 rounds, while the eyewitnesses claim that 16 rounds were fired. Did the officer reload in the middle of the shooting? The weapon which was recovered, which fired the same 9mm as well, and had jammed after only a few rounds.

And how can the police chief be absolutely certain that the recovered weapon, whichever brand it is, fired three rounds as claimed? The weapon fires the same rounds as the officers weapon. Without a ballistics test, a process which takes, on average, 203 days in Missouri, any claims over which weapon fired what casing is pure conjecture on the part of the police department. By even presenting it at this point is an attempt to create a narrative, the first step in what could be a cover up.

In the wake of this shooting, the crowd which has gathered has been far more aggressive to the police, resulting in significant damage to police property.

The issues surrounding the Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department make this case a problem for them. Add the racially charged atmosphere in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, and the entire area appears to be on the verge of a complete breakdown of law and order. The reality is, without videotaped evidence, visibly showing Vonderrit shooting the weapon, there is little that the police department can do to stop the escalation of the situation.

This is one of the reasons why police body cameras are so critical. Of course, as this was not an on-duty officer, there is no guarantee that the camera would have been in place for this event. But, that evidence would prevent the questioning of motive, opportunity, and evidence which has arisen in this case.