ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Two St. Louis police officers were charged Tuesday in connection a shooting outside a south St. Louis bar in spring 2018.
According to a spokesperson for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the shooting occurred in the parking lot of Bomber O’Brien’s Sports Bar & Grill—located near Beck Avenue and S. Kingshighway Boulevard—just after 1 a.m. on Friday, April 27, 2018. Officers Joseph Schmitt and William Olsten were off duty at the time of the shooting.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association call the charges against the two St. Louis Police Officers by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office “an unprecedented abuse of power." SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda says in a statement that, “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."
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office says that the investigation into this matter began in May 2018. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s Force Investigative Unit was seeking charges against the victim. The Circuit Attorney’s Office refused those charges based upon insufficient evidence.
"The alleged actions of these police officers strike at the heart of police power and community trust in law enforcement,” said St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner writes in a statement. “Police officers are given great authority by the community. As prosecutors, we must have confidence in the words and actions of police officers when they bring charges to our office for potential prosecution. Individual’s liberty is at stake here. These types of situations, while rare, are crushing to the criminal justice system. I support our law enforcement officers and believe the vast majority of St. Louis police officers serve our community honorable every day. While it’s very discouraging to bring charges against police officers, I want to send a clear message to this community. No one is above the law, even law enforcement officers.”
The victim said he was sitting his van alone in the parking lot when Schmitt walked up to move his truck, which was parked next to the victim's vehicle. The two men acknowledged one another and Schmitt moved his truck to another space in the parking lot. Schmitt than began talking with other individuals outside their vehicles.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden confirmed four officers with his department were off duty and dining at the bar.
Schmitt, Olsten, and the other officers then approached the victim's van. Nobody in the group identified themselves as police officers and they were all dressed in plain clothes.
Investigators said Olsten hoped in the back of the van without warning or permission. The victim got out of the van with a firearm to defend himself.
After a brief exchange, police said the victim tried getting back in his van when Olsten grabbed him from behind and slammed him to the pavement. The victim's gun went off during the scuffle and Olsten was shot in the wrist and shoulder.
Schmitt followed the driver and shot him from behind, striking the driver in the arms and legs.
Hayden said the suspect’s gun was recovered at the scene. The chief said the victim was 22 years of age.
Both Olsten and Schmitt were placed on unpaid administrative suspension.
Fox 2 spoke with Olsten's father, who said his son had been at the bar celebrating his birthday with two friends. The friends left the bar and said the suspect was sitting in his van outside the bar when they left.
Olsten and Schmitt were both charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Schmitt was also charged with unlawful use of a weapon.
All four officers present at the shooting were placed on administrative leave while the Force Investigative Unit conducts its investigation. Hayden said the department is reviewing surveillance footage from the scene.
Hayden said department policy requires officers to drink responsibly whether they are armed or not. Investigators will be looking into how much all parties involved had to drink.