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.”

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(9) comments

ogel

If we allowed every law enforcement to take action based on his individual beliefs we would have sheer chaos, because every individual has been influenced by his social and physical environment, as well as people. That is why we have a Constitution that was designed to protect all of us as individuals, and it guarantees each of "equal protection of the law." Hopefully, that means that if a police officer sees us walking down the street with a group of friends, that unless we are engaging in criminal activity or doing something suspicious, he has no right to do a U-turn, drive three blocks away from his job site and to confront us solely because we happen to be of a particular race, or fit one of his racial beliefs.

If the young man in question happened to live with his grandmother, as you suggest, it has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Should we condemn every kid that lives with his grandmother or assume the worst of those who do not live with their parents. No. That has entirely nothing to do with anything.

ogel

Terri-lee, thank you for your response. You are correct, officers can and do set up DUI roadblocks and all of us are grateful for their efforts to keep drunk drivers off of our roads. We all stand to benefit from those efforts, but Terri-lee, how would you feel if they only set up road blocks on the street where you lived?

All crime fighting efforts are for the good of all of society, except when they are directed at specific individuals or groups of people based on some police officer's prejudicial beliefs or mindsets. Officers can not be allowed to act against people based on mere personal suspicions or biases, and that is why we have laws, to protect us from such. I

Terri-lee

Ogel- police are allowed to set up roadblocks and search cars when they feel it's necessary. These are the DUI roadblocks that I'm talking about. I was in two of them. I cooperated answered questions and was on my way. One guy who was belligerent and uncooperative with the police ended up being handcuffed and having his car searched. I cannot believe how parents defend the actions of their thug children . This young man was not living with his mother or father. He was living with his Grandmother. Why?

ogel

No. The most critical question has not been answered and it needs to be.

If you stop 500 people, you are bound to later determine that a certain percentage of
them may have been criminals, in possession of something illegal, or any number of things. As far as I know, people have rights before a police officer can just stop and search them. I first believe, they have to have a reason for doing so. It is not enough to allow someone to simply follow or chase them based on some personal whim.

I am asking, again, in this case, why did the officer do a U-turn? Did he do a U-turn and pursue the men because he saw something suspicious or did he do a U-turn because they were people of color?

If he saw nothing and turned simply because they were people of color, what is the difference in that and racial profiling?

If police set up a road block on the busiest highway in the nation and searched every car based on some personal bias or prejudice, surely he would find that a certain percentage of those cars would meet his expectations. Is he then, justified in stopping every car because of that?

If police officers believe that every black person in a mall is a shoplifter, does he have a right to stop and search every black person's shopping bags?

If he suspects that every person who smokes cigarettes also use illegal drugs, does he have a right to stop every person he sees smoking a cigarette?

At what point is anyone safe from any police officer's racist mindset?

If this officer did a U-turn in the absence of any suspicious behavior, but based solely on his race, are you now expecting members of the general public to accept this officer's word as one based on integrity when he has already clearly demonstrated by pursuing a man for doing nothing other than being a person of color?

If the man had a weapon, is that an automatic death sentence?

As for too many black youth dead at early ages, there are too may affluent people supplying illegal drugs to the young, black, and poor men who pedal them as a means of making a living. The unemployment rate in Ferguson for black men was 26%. That is an abomination, yet I hear few people in the media complain about that.

Why did the officer do a U-turn? Let's move beyond that point.

Mad Man

At some point it's important that we acknowledge wrongdoing. Do you also discount that he (Meyers) was in possession of a weapon? Ruger or Smith & Wesson? I am saddend by his death as well. Too many black youth dead at early ages. That said, we must begin to discredit the notion that walking around "strapped" is a right o passage. My mind is my weapon of choice.

Mad Man

anonymous...do you discount the residue and the misfire of the weapon as the officer asserted?

anonymous714

If the incident report was filled out properly/truthfully, then there would never have been any confusion by Chief Dotson as to make of the 9mm that police claim to have found at the scene. There is no way to confuse the word Ruger with the words Smith & Wesson. The only part of the police's story I believe is that the off-duty private security officer was 3 blocks away from the street he was hired to patrol. We offer our sincere condolences to the Myers family & Godspeed in finding the truth.

Mad Man

Ogel...your comment and question deserve answers from the officer. That said, firing at police officers is an inappropirate response, huh? I am saddend by Meyers death. I also wish HE had not been in the possession os a weapon.

ogel

Why did the officer "do a U-turn?" Is it because he saw 3 black males?

What is the difference in this and racial profiling?

My question is sincere. I know that if an officer views suspicious behavior they should investigate, but are they to simply pursue black people when they see them in the absence of suspicious behavior?

If there had been 3 white males, would he have done a U-turn?

Please respond in a serious manner because I think it is a very important question that has very serious implications. Thank you in advance.

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