The white Ladue cop who shot a 33-year-old black woman in the Ladue Schnucks parking lot on April 23 has been charged with assault in the second degree, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell announced at a press conference on Wednesday, May 1.
Julia Crews, 37, a 13-year veteran of law enforcement, made public statements this week that she had mistaken her service revolver for her taser while attempting to apprehend the fleeing woman, who was suspected of shoplifting.
However, Bell said the officer’s actions were “reckless” and the charges were “appropriate.”
“The facts of this case are very clear, and the investigation has given us the answers we need to determine that charges should be brought against Julia Crews,” Bell said.
The victim, a mother of five, suffered a single gunshot wound to the torso, according to police. She has not been charged with any crime, and the investigation is ongoing. She remains in critical condition, Bell said.
Police said the officer was responding to a call at around 3 p.m. from the Ladue Schnucks, located at 8867 Ladue Rd., concerning two alleged shoplifters inside the store.
Upon arrival, Crews detained a female matching the description of a person involved in the shoplifting, according to the probable cause statement. As Crews attempted to secure the woman in handcuffs, a struggle ensued and the woman attempted to run away, it states. Crews pursued the woman on foot.
During that short pursuit, there is evidence to suggest that she gave a verbal warning that she was going to deploy her taser, Bell said. Instead, Crews pulled her service firearm and fired one shot. Crews struck the woman in the torso as she was running away from the officer, Bell said.
Rather than seek a special prosecutor in the case – which Bell said would be an “undue burden” on taxpayers – his office has established an external review committee, consisting of retired Judge Van Lisa Amburg and municipal judges Felicia Ezell-Gillespie and Jack Duepner (who previously served in the county prosecutor’s office for 25 years). The committee of volunteers will continue to independently review and submit recommendations on whether charges should or should not be filed in all officer-involved shootings.
“In this matter, law enforcement, our office and the entire external review committee agreed that charges should be filed,” Bell said.
Should the case go to trial, Bell said the case would be handled by the office’s “conviction incident review unit,” which will be a walled-off unit independent from the rest of the office – and one that reports solely to Bell. The unit has not yet been established, though he has asked the St. Louis County Council for funds for the unit.
Assault in the second degree is Class C felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both. Crews has turned herself into police, and her bond amount was 10 percent of $20,000.
The Ladue Police Department has asked the St. Louis County Police Department to conduct an independent investigation of the incident. The officer remains on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Bell visited with the victim’s family this morning, and he said he aims to expand his office’s victim services and “make sure they are treated with dignity and respect.”
After Bell’s announcement, Robert Hall Sr., the victim’s father said that the entire process has been very emotional.
“I’m trusting Wesley Bell’s office to do everything accordingly and just,” Hall said.
The victim’s mother, Karen Carter, said that the incident happened on her birthday, and the balloons her daughter bought were shaped like the numbers five and two for Carter's 52nd birthday.
“My daughter, I just want her to wake up,” Carter said.
Crews’ attorney Travis Noble also spoke to press following the announcement and disputed Bell’s assertion that his client’s actions were “reckless.”
“It’s an overcharge,” Noble said. “The officer pulled what she believed to be the taser – a tragic accident – and then discharged the round, thinking that it’s her taser.”
The victim’s sister, Aigner Hall, said, “We feel that this should never have happened, whether it was a taser or a gun.”