ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO - Bob McCulloch has spent over three decades in the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office.
He has tried some of the biggest cases in Missouri and his name will be in history books as part of the story of Ferguson.
On January 1st his reign as the longest-serving St. Louis County prosecutor will come to an end.
McCulloch, one of four kids, grew up in St. Louis city near Pine Lawn.
His father, a K-9 officer, was shot and killed while responding to a carjacking when McCulloch was 12-years-old.
As a high school senior McCulloch’s cross-country career came to a halt when doctors found a rare cancer in his left leg and had to amputate it two weeks later.
McCulloch went on to St. Louis University for law school. He then worked for seven years as an assistant prosecutor before taking office as the St. Louis County Prosecutor in 1991.
Eleven days after taking office St. Louis Police Officer JoAnn Liscombe was shot and killed while doing a pedestrian check on Halls Ferry. McCulloch calls it a baptism by fire into his new position.
Then a few months later in July of 1991 Guns N’ Roses came to town and the Riverport Riot broke out. McCulloch charged Alx Rose with inciting a riot and headlines read that he chased him all over the country, which isn’t quite true. McCulloch said he made two phone calls.
Over his career, McCulloch tried cases himself and oversaw a team of prosecutors. On August 9th, 2014 McCulloch and his team were thrust into the spotlight with the shooting of Michael Brown.
“I’m comfortable in saying I think we handled that incredibly well,” McCulloch said. “I think that’s where experienced kicked in. I had been in this job for 24 years.”
McCulloch says his decisions in that case and in every case were based in the court of law and not the court of public opinion. He said that’s why he served as a prosecutor for 28 years and why he won’t be back for his 29th.
“The easiest thing in town to do, and I would be getting sworn in again in the next few weeks, is if I would have said you know I’m going to recuse myself on this,” McCulloch said. “But there was no conflict. The oath that I took said you will uphold and defend the constitution of the state of Missouri. There is nothing in there that says unless someone is really yelling at you or it hurts your political career.”
McCulloch doesn’t know yet if Ferguson will define his career, but he’s done much more. He expanded the domestic violence unit in the prosecutor’s office, started a drug treatment and veterans court and made working in the St. Louis County prosecutor’s office a job that people can make their careers.
“There are three people leaving the office at the end of the year who are leaving with 95 years of experience in this office, and that’s being replaced by three people who have zero experience in this office.”
His advice to his successor is to recognize the talent he is inheriting and to take full advantage of their experience and expertise.
McCulloch said when he took office in 1991 his main focus was on victims and as he leaves office he said that working for them is what he will miss most.
Now McCulloch plans to relax, hang out with his grandkids and maybe even write a book.