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St. Louis police union leader criticizes charges against officers

St. Louis Police Officers Association business manager Jeff Roorda

ST. LOUIS (AP) – A leader of the union that represents St. Louis police officers is calling the decision to charge two officers in a shooting case “an unprecedented abuse of power.”

Joseph Schmitt and William Olsten were charged Monday with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Schmitt also faces a weapons charge.

The officers were off-duty at a bar in April. The charges claim Schmitt and Olsten approached a van where a bar patron was sitting. An investigation by the circuit attorney’s office found that the patron’s gun went off when Olsten slammed that person to the ground, injuring Olsten. Schmitt allegedly responded by shooting the patron, who survived.

St. Louis Police Officers Association business manager Jeff Roorda said Tuesday that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner ignored statements from the officers and two of their colleagues, along with forensic and video surveillance evidence, in choosing to charge the officers instead of the patron. He says the officers were the real victims of the crime.

You can read the full statement from the SLPOA below:

“The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) called charges filed against two St. Louis Police Officers by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office ‘ unprecedented abuse of power.’

The two officers were charged related to an off-duty incident from April of 2018 where one officer was shot and the second officer fired on the assailant critically wounding him. Two other off-duty officers witnessed the shooting and gave statements in the matter. Video surveillance of the parking lot also confirmed the four officers’ accounts of the events.

The Police Department’s elite Force Investigative Unit sought charges against the officers’ assailant. But, in a stunning move Monday, Gardner charged the two officers with multiple felonies including Assault in the First Degree.

SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said he was ‘astounded’ by Gardner’s move. ‘Kim Gardner has disregarded the statements of four police officers, video evidence and forensic evidence and instead decided to take the word of a would-be cop-killer who the police department describes as a known gang member and charged the victims in this crime.’

Roorda pointed-out that Gardner is under investigation for suborning perjury in the Greitens investigation and noted that the police union has called for a criminal investigation into her misuse of campaign funds.

‘Here we have a prosecutor desperately trying to distract public attention from her own troubles. She is under Grand Jury investigation for suborning perjury of one of her investigators and now she has enticed testimony against police officers who were the victims of attempted murder. Of course, he’s going to lie.’ Roorda continued, ‘Until Gardner is cleared of suspicion, she should step down and hand the reins over to a credible prosecutor who has the interests of justice at heart.'”

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