Family Sues Over Deadly 2019 Police Shooting in Dark Carondelet Alley

The lawsuit raises questions about police planting evidence and whether the suspect had a weapon

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click to enlarge A photo from the alleyway after police shot 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.
Court filings
A photo from the alleyway after police shot 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.

Yesterday the parents of a 24-year-old shot and killed by a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer in December 2019 filed a lawsuit against the City of St. Louis and the officer who shot their son.

The deadly shooting happened in an alley on the 500 block of Bates Avenue in the Carondelet neighborhood.

Around 9:30 p.m. on December 12, 2019, Cortez Bufford was outside a BP gas station on Bates, smoking a cigarette, when the lawsuit says that police pulled up and officer Lucas Roethlisberger yelled, “Put your junk away.”

This wasn't Bufford's first interaction with police. According to the suit in April 2014, Cortez was pulled over by police after making a legal U-turn near Lafayette Avenue and 14th Street, just south of the Lafayette Square neighborhood. He later filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming to have been beaten by officers, and the case was settled for $20,000.

After hearing “Put your junk away,” Bufford ran away from Roethlisberger. While crossing Bates Street, he was struck by a police SUV driven by officer Martinous Walls, who is named as a defendant in the suit.

click to enlarge Childhood family photos of Cortez Bufford.
MICHAEL B. THOMAS FOR THE INTERCEPT
Childhood family photos of Cortez Bufford.

Cortez continued to run, now into an alleyway off Bates. Roethlisberger followed Cortez into the alley, where he later said he saw Cortez pointing a gun at him. Roethlisberger fired at least nine times, striking Cortez in the face, hands and thigh, killing him.

The lawsuit — citing an investigation by journalist Alison Flowers published in the RFT— says that the alley has "virtually no visibility" at night and that it would have been impossible to see Cortez pull a weapon from his bag.

Police say they recovered a gun Cortez had on his person, but the lawsuit calls that into question as well.

click to enlarge The gangway between 533 and 535 Bates Avenue is seen during the day on May 17, 2021, in St. Louis. - MICHAEL B. THOMAS FOR THE INTERCEPT
MICHAEL B. THOMAS FOR THE INTERCEPT
The gangway between 533 and 535 Bates Avenue is seen during the day on May 17, 2021, in St. Louis.

The lawsuit says the "man bag" Cortez was allegedly carrying the weapon in would have been too small to conceal it. Also according to the lawsuit, Cortez’s finger was shot off, but the gun was not damaged. The firearm wasn't registered to Cortez, nor were his fingerprints lifted off of it.

"After Cortez was shot, there is video of Defendant Roethlisberger and another Officer from the St. Louis City Police Department throwing a heavy object between them," the lawsuit says, raising the question of whether police planted evidence.

Attorney Todd Sivia, whose firm is representing the Bufford family in the suit, says that "There's a true question of whether or not he had a gun. Things just don't make sense."

He adds, "There's a lot of questions."




click to enlarge The alleyway where police shot 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.
Court filings
The alleyway where police shot 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.

Police investigate the shooting.
Court filings
Police investigate the shooting.


click to enlarge A photo filed as an exhibit in a lawsuit stemming from the police shooting death of 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.
Court filings
A photo of the investigation of the police shooting filed as an exhibit in a lawsuit stemming from the police shooting death of 24-year-old Cortez Bufford.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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