It will be two years on June 21 since a white St. Louis city cop shot an off-duty black city officer in the arm – rendering him disabled and unable to return to work. Milton Green, who has served at the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department since 2005, had been trying to save the officers’ lives when he was shot.
But now his life is in shambles.
Green has still not had his pension claim heard, and he’s struggling to provide for his four children. On Monday, June 17, Green filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis and Officer Christopher Tanner, who allegedly shot Green. Green claims that Tanner used excessive force against him and deprived him of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
“It is heartbreaking that this hero’s life has been destroyed,” said Javad Khazaeli, Green’s attorney of Khazaeli Wyrsch LLC. “Instead of the city taking care of him, they put him in a situation where he is going to lose his home and not be able to take care of his kids.”
The 13-page lawsuit provides many details about the incident that had not come to light before, along with Green’s fight to get his pension. The lawsuit’s account of the event is as follows.
On the evening of June 21, 2017, Green was off duty and working on a neighbor’s car in their shared driveway. Late that evening, Green heard the sound of a loud engine on his street. A car attempted to make a right turn and crashed into another car – then stopped in front of Green’s house.
Green then heard a screeching sound and noticed a second car – a black sedan with tinted windows – at the intersection of Park Lane and Astra Avenue.
Fearing that a gang shooting was about to erupt, Green ducked behind his friend’s car and watched the driver and passengers of the first car take off on foot through his gangway.
St. Louis police officers wearing bulletproof vests got out of the black sedan and pursued them, shouting, “Drop your gun!” Then, Green heard the sounds of gunfire.
Another suspect ran towards the east side of Green’s house. When the shots were fired, that suspect dropped to the ground, but he stood back up after the firing ceased. After checking himself for injuries, the suspect picked up his gun. Green’s friend yelled that the suspect had a gun.
In response, the suspect turned towards Green and his friend, pointing his gun at them. Green drew his service weapon and yelled, “Police! Drop your gun!”
The man then took off running east again, through Green’s yard.
As Green moved to follow, a city police officer told Green to drop his weapon and get on the ground. Green complied, but the armed criminal suspect got away. Although Green explained that he was police, the officer told him to “shut the hell up and stay on the ground.” However, the officer walked away without handcuffing Green.
Green then saw Detective Brett Carlson handcuffing his friend. Green spoke to Carlson and showed his badge. Carlson told his fellow police officers that Green was police and specifically directed them not to shoot Green.
Then, Carlson told Green to approach him. Green stood, took three steps to secure his weapon, picked it up, and started walking towards Carlson, badge in hand. Green carried his gun in his right hand with the barrel pointed at the ground. Green was giving Carlson a description of the fleeing suspect when he saw two officers in his peripheral.
Tanner shouted, “Drop your weapon!” and simultaneously shot Green without allowing Green any time to respond.
Carlson yelled to Tanner, “I told you he was off-duty. I told you not to shoot.”
“Defendant Tanner stood silent, offering no aid or apology for such an egregious transgression,” the lawsuit states. “Had Defendant Tanner exercised due care, he would have noticed that Officer Green was calmly talking to Detective Carlson, with a badge in his hand, and that Detective Carlson had the situation under control.”
Green was transported to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and underwent emergency surgery to repair his shattered arm. He received approximately six months of physical therapy, but his arm is permanently damaged, it states.
Two years later, Green is still on disability leave. Because of the financial loss directly caused by the shooting, Green is behind on bills and his home is nearing foreclosure. Because Green was out of work, his wife took extra jobs on top of having to take care of Green and their children.
Green’s wife saw him get shot, and his then-15-year-old daughter saw him lying on the ground bleeding.
‘Most egregious ever’
What’s not included in the lawsuit is how the officers treated Green’s family and neighbors after he was shot, said Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police, a police association for mainly minority officers.
“It’s one of the most egregious things ever,” Taylor said. “What you did to his children, you can never ever, ever, recover from that. They saw their father bleeding in front of their house and they ran out frantic. Then the officers cursed his children and his wife out. If you treat our own officers like this, you don’t think we aren’t treating anyone else in the community like this?”
The police department never interviewed Green, the lawsuit states. And the Internal Affairs investigator in the case, whom The American learned was Steve Burle, is the father of Tanner’s partner. (Burle was also seen in a viral video in November 2017 cussing out a person who honked at his unmarked police car, after Burle didn’t move forward at a green light.)
Hours after Green was shot, then-interim police chief Lawrence O’Toole, who is now assistant police chief, wrongfully told the press that Green was injured during “friendly fire.”
The Ethical Society of Police said publicly that it would have been impossible for O’Toole to have had the wrong information. Now Police Chief John Hayden was standing next to O’Toole when he made the false statement. In a January 2018 interview, The American asked Hayden why he didn’t speak up when he heard O’Toole lying to the press.
Hayden responded, “I didn’t know that [O’Toole] lied until the next day. When you’re standing there, you’re not like parsing his words. I was aware that there was a black and white officer involved. I wasn't talking. He was talking.”
During that 2018 interview, Hayden said he would look into discipline for O’Toole for making the false claim, now that he was chief. To The American’s knowledge, O’Toole was never disciplined.
The lawsuit states that city officers injured in the line of duty typically have their pension claims heard and granted quickly – but Green’s has dragged on.
A pension board hearing was scheduled for February. However, the police claimed that nearly two years later, a second police report about the incident has mysteriously resurfaced.
The department refused to provide a copy of the report to Green or the board but, instead, insisted on continuing the hearing all the way to June 2019, to allow the department to show the new report to the pension board, the lawsuit states.
“To this date, the pension board has not ruled on Officer Green’s claim, and he continues to suffer needlessly in limbo,” it states.
Green was a member of the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association (SLPOA), the bargaining agent for police officers. The union raised about $2,000 for Tanner but has held no fundraisers for Green, the lawsuit states.
“In contrast, the SLPOA held a large fundraiser on June , 2019 for disgraced ex-SLMPD officer William Olsten,” the lawsuit states. “The fundraiser, which included free beer and food, was a watch party for the final game of the Stanley Cup Championship. All proceeds went to Olsten, a white officer currently under indictment for beating and shooting a man he had argued with in a bar and lying to police about what occurred. Olsten is also a defendant in a half dozen civil rights suits alleging that he used excessive force.”
A Go Fund Me website has been established for Milton Green: https://www.gofundme.com/fundraiser-for-officer-milton-green.