On August 19, 2015, two St. Louis police officers shot and killed 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey. At the time, police said that he was fleeing a house they were searching for weapons and drugs and that he pointed a gun at them. They maintained that they shot him out of self defense and that despite being shot, he continued to run, drop the gun in the back yard, and then collapse in front of the house.
But recently released information seemingly contradicts that story. The autopsy revealed that Ball-Bey was shot in the back, which is inconsistent with him turning to aim a gun at the officers. Medical examiner Michael Graham also determined that the shot fatally pierced his heart and severed his spinal cord, making it difficult to believe that he continued to run. Last week, Graham reexamined the body and said that perhaps his spinal cord unraveled as he ran. “There is a possibility that it was damaged at point A and severed at point B. I’m not sure I have ever seen it before, but conceptually, I can see how it can happen,” Graham said.
“That’s a clear indication to me that given the initial results they learned from the initial autopsy, it doesn’t support the position the police laid out at first as it relates to Ball-Bey being shot and running, so they want to take a second look to modify those findings,” said Jermaine Wooten, attorney for Ball-Bey’s family. “These things should have been addressed early on and I don’t see why they are taking a second look when it should have been thorough and complete the first time.
The circuit attorney’s office is now investigating the shooting, citing “calls from community members and leaders.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the office usually does not weigh in until after the police complete their own internal investigation.
“It is vital that we conduct a thorough, meticulous and independent review of this and all officer involved shootings,” circuit attorney Jennifer M. Joyce said in a statement. “We will work as quickly as possible to gather available facts, evidence and witness statements.” She also recommended that the Civilian Review Board ask the attorney general conduct a separate investigation. Her office is still reviewing Powell’s killing.
The victim’s family and friends maintain that he was not at the house being searched, but was at a friend’s home nearby. But they are not the only ones who have doubted the official story of Ball-Bey’s death from the start. The day after he was killed, Organization for Black Struggle activist Kayla Reed spoke to reporters about the shooting, which occurred on the one-year anniversary of the police-involved killing of Kajieme Powell. “…The narrative that he had a gun and an officer feared for his life, that is a narrative that we hear most often with these situations,” she said. “So one year later, it is very hard to believe that the same chief who has allowed his force to continue to escalate situations and in several different incidents has been proven to be lying, that his account of events is true. Especially when they differ so much from people who live in that neighborhood and have lived in that neighborhood for some many years and knew this young man.”