St. Louis police dash cam shows part of contested arrest

Dash Cam - File

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A recently released video of an arrest in which St. Louis police are accused of using excessive force shows officers pulling a resisting suspect from a car, kicking him and shocking him with a stun gun before the camera is shut off abruptly.

The dashboard camera video ends after an officer involved in the April 2014 arrest of Cortez Bufford yells, in part, “Everybody hold up. We’re red right now!” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this week.

Joel Schwartz and Bevis Schock, the attorneys who filed suit on behalf of Bufford last month in St. Louis Circuit Court, say “red” is cop slang for a running camera. They say the video, which they released, supports their case that police lacked probable cause and applied excessive force in the arrest. The charges against Bufford of unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest were later dropped.

A circuit attorney’s spokeswoman, Susan Ryan, told the newspaper the case was dismissed because “the action of turning off the dash cam video diminished the evidentiary merits of the case.” She also said a review showed the officers did not break the law.

A police spokeswoman told KTVI-TV that the officer who turned off the camera “has been recommended” for discipline but is appealing.

A lawyer for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association insists the video reflects a proper escalation of force applied against a resisting suspect who reached for a gun.

The stop followed 911 reports of shots fired. Five minutes later, according to a police report, two officers watched as a silver Ford Taurus made an “illegal” U-turn and “abruptly parked.” One officer searched and handcuffed the passenger as the other talked through the car window with Bufford, the driver, the report said.

One officer wrote of smelling marijuana and seeing “plastic baggies and a green leafy substance.” Bufford “became agitated,” one officer wrote, refused to give his name and reached for a pants pocket before the officer warned him to keep his hands in view. Bufford refused orders to get out, and an officer called for backup when Bufford became “increasingly hostile,” according to the report.

The report said that after an officer maneuvered Bufford to the ground, Bufford struggled and reached for his pocket. The video shows officers struggling with Bufford as another arrives and kicks at him. The police report says an officer administered a “foot strike” to keep Bufford from reaching his weapon.

Bufford hit and kicked several officers, the report says, before another officer “administered a foot strike” to the leg, and Bufford was jolted with a Taser twice.

After he was handcuffed, a semi-automatic pistol was recovered.

The St. Louis Police Department has a small number of dashboard cameras and no body cameras. State lawmakers are considering measures that would require police to wear such cameras, a response to the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by an officer in Ferguson in August.

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