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St. Louis police officer charged with shooting unarmed car thief

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ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis police officer is facing an assault charge for shooting an unarmed car thief in the back while chasing the person on foot in the city’s West End neighborhood.

According to Sgt. Keith Barrett, a spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the incident took place August 27, 2018, in the 5500 block of Chamberlain Avenue.

On that day, a St. Louis office spotted a stolen Ford Mustang in the 4900 block of Natural Bridge Road. The officer attempted to pull the vehicle over but the person driving the Mustang refused to stop. That officer radioed for assistance.

One of the officers responding to assist was 26-year-old Matthew Eernisse.

The suspected car thief crashed the Mustang in the 1100 block of Clara and ran away on foot. Officer Eernisse chased the victim to a backyard in the 5500 block of Chamberlain.

The suspected car thief began to scale a boarded-up gate to the gangway. Eernisse pulled out his service weapon and opened fire.

As the car thief entered the gangway, Officer Eernisse continued to fire at the individual. The car thief collapsed in the gangway.

Officers responding to the scene did not find a firearm or weapon in the victim’s possession or nearby. Investigators determined that at no point during either the vehicle or foot pursuit did the car thief display a weapon.

The shooting victim was taken to Barnes Hospital and treated for gunshot wounds to the back.

The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office charged Eernisse Thursday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

The police department's Internal Affairs Division and Force Investigation Unit handled the investigation.

The officer responsible for writing the probable cause statement described Eernisse as "a danger to the victim and the community."

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