Another day, another non-indictment in an officer-involved shooting. Yesterday (June 2), St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced that she will not file charges against the officers who killed 18-year-old Mansur Ball-Bey last August. Her investigation, which was conducted via the Officer-Involved Shooting Unit, found “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the two officers didn’t shoot in self-defense.”
“One of the biggest challenges we face in this case is that there is no independent, credible witness we can put in front of a grand jury or regular jury who contradicts police statements. None of the other witnesses had a clear view at the moment when Ball-Bey was shot,” Joyce said.
In a press conference held yesterday, she was careful not to say the officers should have shot the teenager: “I’m not saying that this shooting was justified. I would not say that. I am saying that based on the evidence that we have, there is no way that any criminal charges could be brought against these two officers.”
The two officers—and one off-duty officer who was across the alley—maintain that they were searching a home for weapons on August 19, 2015, when Ball-Bey allegedly fled the house, pointed a gun at them then continued to run after he was shot. The autopsy revealed that the teenager was shot in the back and sustained both a severed spinal cord and traumatic heart injury, which cast doubt on the official account of events.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says Ball-Bay’s palm print was found on a magazine of a gun the officers say “flew out” of his hands after he was shot, but his DNA was not found on the weapon. Ball-Bey was Black. The officers—Kyle Chandler, 33, who fired the fatal shot and Ronald Vaughan, 29, who fired and missed—are White.
Ball-Bey’s family is dissatisfied with the decision. From St. Louis Public Radio:
“There was enough evidence that could have put these officers behind bars,” said Todd El, the grand sheik of the Moorish Science Temple of America #5, where the Ball-Bey family worships. “[Joyce] chose to be a jury, she chose to make a decision without even allowing the people the opportunity to see the evidence in regards to this case.”
Jermaine Wooten, an attorney for the family, said he believed officers planted the gun investigators found next to a nearby trash bin. It had Ball-Bey’s palm print on it, and prosecutors said social media and text messages also connected him to the gun.
“I’m not de-legitimizing the photographs,” Wooten said. “If Mansur had possessed that gun at some point in the past, he did not possess that gun on that particular day.”
The prosecutor’s office says the investigation was thorough, but admits that investigators “interviewed all relevant witnesses, with the notable exception of the two officers. They declined to speak to prosecutors and could not be compelled to speak with the Circuit Attorney’s Office because they were subjects of the investigation.” Instead, they used the officers’ recorded statements, which were submitted two days after the fatal shooting.
St. Louis Police Commissioner Sam Dotson says his department will review the case to determine what tactical lessons it can learn from the shooting.
Read the circuit attorney’s full 43-page report here.