St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson did not tell the media last month when he asked the FBI to review the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s internal investigation of the police shooting of Cary Ball Jr. on April 24. But he did tell Ball’s family.
Police Officers Jason Chambers and Timothy Boyce fired 28 bullets at Ball after he fled the scene of an accident following a high-speed chase, hitting him 21 times. They claim that Ball, who was armed, aimed his gun at them. The internal police investigation agreed with them and ruled the shooting justified.
No civilian witness has claimed that Ball aimed a gun at the officers. Ball’s mother, Toni Taylor, said Chief Dotson expressed concern with those witness statements when he told the family he had asked the FBI to review the police investigation.
“I really appreciate that,” Taylor told The American. “I welcome it. I hope the FBI makes a very thorough investigation. Those witnesses know what they seen, and they never seen him point a gun.”
Dotson’s approach to the FBI regarding the Ball shooting was reported last week in the Post-Dispatch.
“As chief, it’s my responsibility to make sure the investigation was thorough, though I have no reason to believe it was not thorough,” Dotson told The American. “Also, I wanted to make sure the community’s confidence in the police department is reinforced.”
The FBI, which is very stingy with comments on ongoing investigations, did not return a request for comment.
The FBI, a federal agency, does not include reviewing the work of local police departments as part of its mandate. However, it does investigate civil rights violations. Though Dotson said he did not ask the FBI to review the case for a possible violation of Ball’s civil rights, he agreed there is a “possibility they could claim there was a civil rights violation” after investigating the case.
The fact that the police chief instigated a federal investigation that could possibly lead to federal charges being brought against police officers who had been absolved by his own department left the St. Louis Police Officers Association in a rage.
“To punt this case to the FBI undermines the credibility of every investigation our homicide detectives conduct, whether it’s a justified police shooting or the brutal murder of one of our neighbors,” association business manager Jeff Roorda said in a lengthy statement.
“I don’t fault him for speaking up for his members,” Dotson said of Roorda’s heated statement. “But I have to be police chief for the police department and for the community, and I have to make sure the community has a high level of confidence in our work.”
Freeman Bosley Jr., who is representing the Ball family in a civil suit, commended Dotson.
“The chief, like everybody else, senses there are some unanswered questions here,” Bosley said. “I am sure he is concerned about the number of shots fired, the discrepancies in witness testimony, the fact that no civilian witness saw Cary aim a gun at the police officers.”
On April 24, Ball was driving home from work when a police car turned on its lights behind him at Washington Avenue and 18th Street. Rather than pull over, Ball led police on a high-speed chase. He crashed his car on the 1000 block of North 9th Street, grabbed his automatic handgun and started running east on Carr Street. He was shot and killed on Carr Street between 8th and 9th streets.
An ex-felon with prior robbery convictions carrying a stolen Glock, Ball had completed course work for a certificate from St. Louis Community College and been honored as an Emerging Scholar when he was killed.
The Ball family’s multi-million-dollar suit alleging excessive force and wrongful death has a trial date set for August 18, 2014. It will not be difficult for his mother to remember that date. Taylor said, “It’s Cary’s birthday.”