ST. LOUIS - A federal grand jury indicted four St. Louis police officers for civil rights violations and obstruction of justice and later lying to federal investigators, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen said Thursday.
The indictment charges officers Dustin Boone, Bailey Colletta, Randy Hays, and Christopher Myers with felonies in the days and weeks following the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in a first-degree murder case for killing a drug suspect.
Boone, Colletta, Hays, and Myers were suspected of arresting and assaulting a fellow St. Louis officer who was working undercover during the protests in downtown St. Louis after Stockley's acquittal.
Prior to the decision in the Stockley case, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department assembled its Civil Disobedience Team (CDT), made up of more than 200 officers. The CDT was assigned with crowd control during the protests and to arrest people suspected of committing crimes.
The four defendants were assigned to the CDT.
According to court documents, Boone, Hays, and Myers used excessive force against the undercover officer, causing bodily harm to that officer. Prosecutors claim the three St. Louis officers conspired and agreed to mislead witnesses to prevent federal authorities from learning about their conduct.
Myers was also accused of destroying the undercover officer's cellphone in order to impede and influence the investigation.
Finally, Colletta was charged with lying to the grand jury about the incident in an attempt to obstruct the case.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden released the following statement Thursday afternoon after the indictment was handed down:
"Our Department solicited the assistance of the FBI after allegations surfaced that an undercover St. Louis City Police Officer was assaulted by other St. Louis City Police Officers during a night of civil unrest following the verdict in former Officer Jason Stockley's case.
"A federal investigation was initiated, and our Department was fully cooperative. That investigation culminated this week with the announcement of indictments of those involved (listed below), who have been placed on administrative leave without pay.
- Dustin Boone, 35-year old, male, with 2-years of service
- Bailey Colletta, 25-year old, female, with 1.5-years of service
- Randy Hays, 31-year old, male, with 8-years of service
- Christopher Myers, 27-year old, male, with 3-years of service
"I am deeply disappointed in the alleged actions of these individual officers; however, it is in no way reflective of the hard work and dedication exhibited by the men and women of our Department who serve the community on a daily basis with integrity and honor.
"Our officers must be held to the highest standard of professionalism, and I expect them to abide by the very same laws they are sworn to uphold, as they have an ethical obligation to the citizens of this community. I want to ensure the community that this Department will continue to be open, honest, and transparent in our commitment to make the City of St. Louis a safer place for all to live, work, and visit."
St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmy Edwards added:
"When a public safety employee acts outside the scope of their authority, it is imperative that they be held accountable to the fullest extent under the law. I believe the officers are outliers, that the charges are isolated, and not indicative of our police department."
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner released this statement:
"The alleged actions of these four officers indicted today on federal charges is disheartening, as both a prosecutor and citizen of this community. Police integrity is at the core of the community`s confidence in the criminal justice system.
"As Circuit Attorney, I have the responsibility to defend the integrity of the criminal justice system. With the ongoing knowledge of this federal investigation, we have been forced to dismiss 91 cases involving these four officers. We will continue to review additional cases where these officers' testimony or involvement is fundamental.
"Law enforcement officers must be held to the highest standards of conduct. When they breach the trust of the community, they must be held accountable. We commend the U.S. Attorney Jeff Jenson and his team on their courage to aggressively address these difficult issues.
"The alleged conduct of these officers should not be used to tarnish the service of the hardworking men and women who honorably serve the residents of the City of St. Louis on the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department."
According to Gardner, the cases involve "victim-less crimes" involving drugs and guns. The testimony of the four officers was an essential part of each case.
A law enforcement source tells Fox 2, the four officers indicted Thursday are also named on the Circuit Attorney's "exclusion list," a list of 28 city officers with credibility concerns who are not permitted as primary witnesses in criminal cases.
The ACLU of Missouri released this statement:
"Today’s indictment is an important step in addressing the culture that has allowed the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to consistently behave in an unconstitutional manner. While these officers have been indicted for illegally abusing an undercover officer they mistook for a protestor, there has still been no real accountability for the individual officers who engaged in the same behavior toward protestors. St. Louis officials must address this rampant lawlessness by its police.”
Tony Rothert, Legal Director for the ACLU of Missouri, said more than a dozen demonstrators have filed lawsuits following the Stockley protests accusing other officers of arbitrary arrests, excessive force, and destroying phones.
"When you have an undercover police officer who's mistaken for a protester and treated the same way that other protesters are treated, it just makes it all the more apparent who's telling the truth about what happens in protests in the city of St. Louis," said Rothert.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association, the union representing the four officers, released this statement:
"For the time being, the SLPOA is referring any comment on the four indicted St. Louis Police Officers to their attorneys. We can confirm that all four are members and that we are providing them with legal representation in order for them to have their day in court. We encourage elected officials, the media and the public to allow them their day in court without speculation about their guilt or innocence."
Fox 2/KPLR 11 will have more information on this story as it becomes available.