St. Louis, MO – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has gone from blaming police for the officer-involved shooting of an armed drug dealer to blaming them for not solving enough murdered children cases.
Gardner backed St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Ellyia Green’s declaration that St. Louis police were the ones responsible for the deadly Sept. 5 encounter with 28-year-old Cortez Shepherd.
Shepherd was fatally shot as he attempted to pull a gun out of his pocket during a fight with the officers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Green claimed that the interaction between the four-time felon and police “never should have happened,” in the first place, because Gardner has vowed not to prosecute marijuana possession offenses under 100 grams, according to her Twitter post later that day.
“And she’s right,” Green quipped. “Our police also need to be instructed to abide by these rules.”
The alderwoman further declared that the officers’ efforts to keep such offenders off the streets “is a waste of police resources.”
Gardner retweeted Green’s message approximately an hour later and expressed her approval for the alderwoman’s accusations against the officers.
“Exactly,” the circuit attorney tweeted.
On Tuesday, Gardner was infuriated to learn that neither she nor St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell had been invited to the crime summit meeting being held at town hall that day, KTVI reported.
Gardner said that she does not know who convened the summit or why the prosecutors were not asked to attend.
“You need to ask the question of conveners of this [summit] why were the reps of the people not there,” she told KTVI. “I don’t know. You have to ask them.”
Bell’s staff learned about the meeting after they read about it in the local newspaper, and scrambled to send a representative to attend.
“It’s not about Wesley Bell or myself,” Gardner told KTVI. “We’re the only elected officials charged with violent crime in the city and county. So, if you have a crime summit, why was people’s voice silenced?”
The circuit attorney alleged that the lack of invitations was evidence of a “clear and concerted effort to isolate the two reform-minded elected prosecutors” in the city, according to her op-ed piece in The St. Louis American.
“We are going to be a part of those meetings,” she told KTVI.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson later said that the meeting was held to speak with the governor about bringing more financial resources to the area to help combat crime, KTVI reported.
“It was absolutely not a slight to her,” Krewson said. “We’re not asking her to bring any money to the table. We’re asking the governor to do that.”
When a reporter asked Gardner about her support for the allegation that police should have never made contact with Shepherd, the circuit attorney immediately sidestepped the premise of the question by blaming officers for something else instead.
Gardner ranted that the St. Louis Police Department (SLPD) should be more worried that they have only been able to present her with cases in two of the 15 child murders that have occurred in the city this year.
“We're outraged that the police union is outraged over a tweet,” she told KTVI. “Where's the same outrage when we have many cases that need to be addressed?”
Gardner said that the “relentless” focus on the tweet was “disturbing,” according to her article in The St. Louis American.
“No outrage from the police union leadership over children being killed. No outrage over the fact that only two suspects have been identified in all of these killings,” she declared. “Outrage over a tweet is what the police union decided they would leverage to further divide our city.”
Gardner said she is committed to creating “a more accountable criminal justice system,” and that she will “continue to hold people accountable regardless of their occupation and position in life.”
In a statement, SLPD said it has been working the child homicide cases, but that investigators need cooperation from the community in order to be able to solve them.
“Witness participation is the biggest challenge to solving homicides,” the department told KTVI in a statement. “We believe that is a well-established fact."
The St. Louis Police Officer’s Association (POA) blasted Gardner for helping to perpetuate anti-police rhetoric in the wake of officers’ encounter with Shepherd.
“In what has become an all too familiar refrain, the anti-police faction began spinning false narratives that a helpless weed possessor was murdered for no reason,” the POA said in a statement.
What actually took place was much different, the group noted.
The altercation occurred in the 3900-block of Garfield Avenue at approximately 12:50 a.m., St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The area, known as “Hayden’s rectangle,” is fraught with “heavy” drug activity, and has been the target of increased crime-reduction efforts, Chief Hayden explained.
Officers patrolling the area spotted a car parked with a group of people standing around it, and went over to investigate the suspected drug activity.
A seven-year-old child was in the backseat of the suspect’s vehicle at the time.
During the course of their interaction with Shepherd, police seized crack/cocaine, bars of Xanax, and marijuana, according to the POA.
The SLPD also posted photos of the illegal contraband found at the scene.
“When police attempted to effectuate an arrest, the suspect initiated a struggle,” the POA explained. “Police’s attempt to use a Taser to subdue the suspect was unsuccessful.”
Police said that the convicted felon then attempted to pull out a revolver he had hidden in his pocket.
“Officers were required to use deadly force to neutralize the immediate threat to their lives,” the POA said.
Shepherd was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The seven-year-old child was not physically harmed during the incident, and managed to run to her mother, who was nearby, Chief Hayden said.
The officers sustained minor injuries during the brawl, according to the POA.
Police recovered the suspect’s fully-loaded revolver at the scene.
According to the POA, Shepherd had four prior felony conviction and had recently been released from a nine-year prison stint.
“Shockingly, however, the elected prosecutor Kim Gardner tweeted an ominous threat to police,” the POA noted. “She agreed with notorious cop hater Alderwoman Megan Green that the ‘interaction’ with the armed drug dealer dealing drugs in a car with a 7 year old girl ‘never should have happened.’”
“What is stunning is that the assistant circuit attorney who prosecuted the cases against this suspect from 2009 to 2011 was none other than Assistant Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner,” the group pointed out, adding that she is “intimately familiar with the suspect’s career in crime.”
The POA urged Gardner to recuse herself and her entire office from having any involvement in the investigation into the incident.
“Pre-judging an officer involved shooting and twitter threatening these brave officers is horribly unethical,” the POA declared. “This blatant dereliction of duty and unethical threat by this ‘prosecutor’ is nothing short of alarming.”
The group also called out Chief Hayden, Krewson, and St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards for standing silent “while Gardner abdicates her duty, promotes a false narrative regarding this incident and publicly threatens officers.”
“Their silence is deafening,” the FOP said.
The group accused city leaders of promoting “the systematic demoralizing” of the St. Louis police force.
“We will not stand idly by and let them continue to dismantle the safety and security of our City and its people,” the POA concluded.