Interim St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole

Interim Police Chief Lawrence briefs the media on Dec. 22 about a triple homicide murder, bringing the city up to 203 murders this year. Photo by Wiley Price.

One of the St. Louis city police officers who allegedly beat a black undercover city cop during a Sept. 17 protest was promoted on Dec. 21.

Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole promoted Joseph Marcantano to the position of sergeant, O’Toole said today during a press conference addressing a triple homicide.

On Sept. 17, two undercover city officers – one black, one white – were patrolling the protests downtown following the not-guilty verdict of the Jason Stockley murder trial. At one point, police surrounded the protestors at Tucker Boulevard and Washington Avenue on all sides and forcibly arrested more than 120 people.

During this time, the black cop, Luther Hall, was brutally beaten, according to those who know him. The white cop has not been reported as getting assaulted by arresting police. Police sources said Marcantano and two other officers, Randy Hays and Dustin Boone, are named in a federal investigation into Hall’s beating as well as other police actions on Sept. 17. The three officers have not been charged for any crimes.

When the American asked O’Toole if he was aware that Marcantano was under federal investigation for beating Hall before he promoted him, he said, “We aren’t going to talk about any investigations.”

Then O’Toole quickly left the room, preventing any follow-up questions.

In an email to the department’s spokesperson, the American then asked why Marcantano was promoted and whether the department is investigating his actions against Hall. The department has not yet responded.

Following the protest, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, arguing that the police department’s treatment of protestors was not justified. The case is pending, however a federal judge has already ordered the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to stop using chemical weapons and adopt other protocols to protect the constitutional rights of those observing, recording or participating in protest activity.

Several people testified at a hearing in October. Iris and Alex Nelson, a recently married couple, testified that they had left their apartment on Washington Avenue that Sunday to see what was going on after noticing the increased police presence.

Iris said that as she and her husband walked around the neighborhood, they stuck to the sidewalks and crossed the streets legally, but as they tried to return to their building, they found their path blocked and then realized they were closed in on all four sides.

Alex, who is a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, said he realized quickly from his training what was happening. The two got down on the ground to avoiding seeming like they were resisting arrest. Iris testified that she did not see anyone defying the police’s orders.

Nevertheless, both were pepper sprayed while on the ground; Alex was sprayed several times while his eyes were open, blinding him for several hours. He said he was then drug across the ground and zip-tied as tightly as possible. He testified that he was hit in the head with an implement he couldn’t see, and that a police officer said, “Do you like that, cocksucker? We’ll see you again tomorrow night.”

Alex said he knows from his military training that his treatment was improper.

“It’s reminiscent of counterterrorism tactics,” he said in his testimony.

The couple was arrested and held for over 20 hours with no access to medical care.

Although Hall did not testify at the hearing, the ACLU presented evidence that an undercover officer was among those “gathered up, beaten and arrested.”

Those close to Hall said that his treatment was similar to that of the Nelsons, and he sustained serious injuries.

The morning following the arrests, O’Toole told the media, “I’m proud to say the city of St. Louis and the police owned the night. Our officers are doing outstanding work.”

O’Toole is among the six finalists in the search for a permanent police chief. Mayor Lyda Krewson and Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said they would name a new chief before the end of the year.

Jessica Karins contributed to this report.

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