VonDerrit Myers Jr. could make anyone laugh, and he was wise for his 18 years, his father, VonDerrit Myers Sr., said in an interview with The St. Louis American.
“I called him an ‘old man’ because he had the knowledge of an older person,” VonDerrit Sr. said. “He always drew the attention of older people. He was very intelligent, and he loved to read. He’d read anything.”
In January, VonDerrit Jr. would have graduated from Gateway STEM High School, but on October 8, an off-duty St. Louis police officer shot and killed him in the Shaw neighborhood, where he lived with his grandmother.
“I always told him that I wanted to see him become a family man and see what it would be like watching myself all over again,” VonDerritt Sr. said. “But unfortunately I feel like I was stripped from that. He was stripped from that.”
VonDerrit Sr. said he believes his son was unarmed when he was chased down by the off-duty officer, whose name has not been revealed. The officer, a 32-year-old white male with six years on the force, fired 17 shots at his son.
At around 7:30 p.m. on October 8, VonDerrit Jr. and two friends had just come out of a store on the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Klemm Street, where they purchased some food, his father said. They were walking east on Shaw, eating their snacks, when they saw a man dressed in all black – not in a police uniform – come out of a gangway with his weapon pointed at the young men, he said.
VonDerrit Jr.’s friends said the man never identified himself as a police officer.
“These kids were scared, so they ran,” he said.
According to his father, VonDerrit Jr. and the officer got into a physical altercation, and then the youth turned to run and was shot by the police officer.
The family believes that the police’s statements have been inconsistent, and the Department of Justice should open an independent investigation in the case. St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has co-designated the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and review the case.
However, the family’s attorney Jermaine Wooten said that federal investigators would only review the police department’s investigation, rather than open an independent investigation.
On Tuesday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department released lab results from a lab at the Missouri State Highway Patrol that showed Myers had “gunshot residue” on his hands, pants and shirt. The police stated that the residue “could be from being in the environment of a discharged weapon or coming in contact with an object with gunshot residue on it.”
Attorney Jerryl Christmas said that evidence is not conclusive. “He was shot numerous times,” Christmas said. “There’s going to be gunshot residue.”
However, Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said that the test validated the story of the police officer.
The officer was working a second job as a GCI Security officer for the Flora Street neighborhood. The officer said he saw three young African-American men in the 4100 block of Shaw Boulevard, which is three blocks away from the street the officer was hired to patrol.
When the officer then did a u-turn, the males ran from the area, according to the police department’s statement. The officer followed the men through several streets, got out of his car and followed one of the males through a gangway. After Myers and the officer got into a “physical altercation,” Myers allegedly ran up a hill and then turned and fired three rounds toward the officer. “Fearing for his safety,” the officer returned fire, according to police.
Roorda said that the police found pictures of Myers on social media displaying a weapon of the same make and caliber that was fired at the officer and recovered at the scene.
According to the police report, the 9mm gun that Myers allegedly used was reported stolen on September 26, 2014. The make of the gun that police now report finding differs from the one that St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson initially mentioned after the incident occurred. Dotson had said they found a Ruger 9mm, and now they report finding a 9mm Smith & Wesson, like the one in Myers’ photo.
Upon recovery of the gun, the investigation revealed that the gun had malfunctioned and had jammed after firing at least three rounds, according to police. Allegedly Myers continued to point the gun toward the officer and pull the trigger, and the officer continued to fire shots at him, police said.
Roorda also told the press about another shooting case involving Myers when he was a juvenile but certified as an adult. Myers was not found guilty in that case. Wooten said that Myers had never been convicted of a crime, and he did not understand why the police union would bring up a case where Myers was found innocent.
Myers was also slated to go to trial in a November for a case where he allegedly ran from police, after being a passenger in a vehicle involved in a high-speed chase early in the morning of June 27 on South Grand Boulevard. Myers allegedly exited the vehicle and ran, throwing his Hi-Point 380 caliber semi-automatic pistol from his person into a sewage drain. Wooten said he had planned on pleading not guilty.
Myers’ death inspired a candlelight vigil and several protests during the Ferguson October weekend of civil-disobedience actions to bring awareness to police brutality.
Ferguson October leaders said that the police chose to collude the Weekend of Resistance with “the character assassination of a teenager who was killed by a law enforcement officer.”
VonDerrit Jr.’s mother, Syreeta Myers, said, “I just want the truth to come out. I just think it’s unfair that they can go and put out bits and pieces of information to change the people’s minds, instead of really trying to get to the truth.”