Three officers cleared in March I-44 police shooting

ST. LOUIS – Three St. Louis police officers just found out they will not be charged for shooting a man who fled police earlier this year. It’s a groundbreaking announcement during a time when police shooting investigations are piling up.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has a list of more than 40 officer-involved shootings it’s investigating. Some of them dating back more than three years. Now the office said it will not charge three officers who shot a suspect in March. It’ll make a huge difference in the criminal case against that suspect.

It involves the March 31 police pursuit of John Blanchard. Prosecutors said the suspect produced a 9mm handgun and several officers shot him. They charged Blanchard, but couldn’t get the officers who shot him to testify against him.

Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner expressed her frustration at an October 3 public safety meeting.

“At some point, we have to seek the truth. My problem is in those examples, we do have witnesses; they come in with the police union - officers - and they all plead the fifth (amendment).”

The attorney for the three officers who shot Blanchard, Brian Millikan, filed a motion asking for a special prosecutor so that officers wouldn’t be in a position of being treated as both victims and suspects in the same investigation.

In a hearing last week, the lead prosecutor in police shooting investigations, Robert Steele, called it a political move and said he would not be trapped into saying his office won’t charge the officers.

The next day, he filed a memo saying “...no criminal charges will be brought against any police officers involved in this incident based upon a review of video and audio evidence.”

“My clients are pleased that a decision was made by the Circuit Attorney’s Office and they were cleared in the shooting, which we anticipated that when they did make a decision that they would be cleared, but the problem was we weren’t getting any information or communication,” Millikan said.

That means the case against the man who fled police onto I-44 will continue without delay, yet there are many other cases that are still impacted, including a three-year-old case against a woman who police said pointed a gun at officers. The charges against that suspect were dropped in the middle of this same debate.