Friday, October 17, 2014

Forensic science evidence shows teen shot at St. Louis officer, police say

ST. LOUIS - Gunshot residue tests and ballistics evidence indicate that Vonderrit D. Myers Jr. fired a gun at a police officer before being fatally shot, police and union officials said Tuesday.

The police department issued a statement saying that forensic scientists from the Missouri Highway Patrol crime lab found gunshot residue on Myers’ hands, shirt and inside the waistband and pockets of his jeans. Police said that although gunshot residue can be present on anyone near a shooting, the results show levels consistent with Myers being the shooter, because the police officer was standing too far away.

The residue also was found on Myers’ right hand only, police said.

Ballistics evidence also revealed three bullets that hit the ground where the officer was trying to take cover matched Myers’ gun. A round that pierced a car behind the officer was too badly damaged to be able to match it to Myers’ gun; however, it did not match the type of bullets the officer fired, police said.

Myers was shot to death by an off-duty police officer who was on patrol for a private residents’ association in the Shaw neighborhood Oct. 8. The officer saw Myers and two other young men run as soon as they saw him. The officer, who was driving a marked private security car and wearing his city police uniform, chased the young men.

Myers fired at least three shots at the officer before the officer returned fire, killing Myers.

The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association called a press conference Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the department released the gunshot residue findings.

Jeff Roorda, business manager for the association, said that police shooting cases are being tried “in the court of public opinion” and “we think there ought to be evidence presented” in that court.

“We’re done, as a police union, standing in the shadows in these cases,” Roorda said. Along with the gunshot residue results, Roorda and association president Joe Steiger mentioned photos circulating on social media showing Myers with guns and a prior arrest in St. Louis County in a shooting case.

Protesters also have taken to the streets of the Shaw neighborhood after Myers’ death. The first night, protesters threw rocks through windows of some homes and at least one business, vandalized three police vehicles and burned flags stolen from residents’ porches.

The police union press conference was sparked, in part, by the protests and “silly” claims that followed Myers’ death, Roorda said. Roorda said that after the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, “Protesters demanded immediate answers and demanded officers not shoot unarmed suspects. Everything they asked for in Ferguson they got in Shaw, and it still wasn’t enough.”

The officer’s name has not been released. His attorney, Brian Millikan, said the officer saw Myers running with his right hand holding the right side at his waistband, as if he could be keeping a gun in place.

Millikan said that was the same spot where the officer later saw Myers draw a gun. He said that the officer had an “obligation to act” after spotting the fleeing men.

The officer believes Myers fired five to seven times, Millikan said, and believes he would have been dead had the gun not jammed. Millikan said that one live round remained in Myers’ gun.

After Myers’ death, several photographs showing him holding three guns, including one that looked like the stolen Smith & Wesson pistol recovered at the scene, circulated on social media. Millikan said that his client recognized both Myers and the distinctive, two-tone semiautomatic in the pictures.

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