Suspended SLMPD Officers (From L) Dustin Boone, Randy Hays, Bailey Colletta and Christopher Myers outside court.
On June 5, 2018, a pair of FBI agents hand-delivered a letter to St. Louis Police officer Dustin Boone, letting him know he was the target of a federal investigation.
Boone, a burly 35-year-old, had participated in the brutal arrest of an undercover officer while working protests following the acquittal of former St. Louis cop Jason Stockley on a murder charge. Not realizing that Luther Hall was a colleague instead of a protester, Boone and his fellow officers allegedly beat him with their fists, heavy boots and night sticks. Hall later reported that the cops had "beat the fuck out of him like Rodney King," leaving him badly injured. And now the feds were looking into it.
So-called target letters are part of the process in federal criminal cases, but there was also some gamesmanship at play. Unbeknownst to Boone, the FBI had already collected a cache of his text messages
through search warrants served on Verizon Wireless offices in New Jersey and Apple in California, court records show. The messages captured Boone and other cops gleefully chatting about beating protesters.
"It's gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!" Boone wrote on the first night of the protests. "But it's gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!"
Damning as the messages seemed, the investigators were looking for more. Along with the target letter, the FBI had also obtained a signed search warrant, permitting agents to seize Boone's actual iPhone — but they would wait to do that. First, they planned to see how he reacted.
In an affidavit filed
under seal the week before, another FBI agent predicted exactly what the veteran cop would do once he saw the letter.
"Following the presentation of the target letter," Special Agent Jennifer Drews wrote, "investigators surmise that Officer Boone will then contact his co-conspirators and others to engage in further communication regarding the events set forth in this affidavit."
Boone did not disappoint. As he dialed, a pen register — a surveillance device that records the length, time and corresponding phone numbers, but not the actual content of calls and texts — began logging his activities.
The names of some of the other parties are blacked out in the recently released affidavit, but the FBI notes that at least one person he
was someone with whom "Officer Boone repeatedly discussed the aforementioned protest and the assault of [undercover officer] Luther Hall..."
At 10:21 a.m., Officer Christopher Myers sent a text, and Boone immediately responded, the affidavit says. Myers followed up with texts at 10:22 a.m., 1:31 p.m. and 2:09 p.m. Myers called twice in quick succession at 4:39 p.m., reaching Boone on the second call. They talked for 4 minutes 39 seconds.
Myers texted two more times at 8:01 p.m., but Boone didn't respond, the records showed.
The next morning, on June 6, 2018, FBI special agents Darren Boehlje and Robert Polanco confronted Boone again. This time, they showed him the warrant and took his iPhone.
Myers called four times between 10:30 a.m. and 10:42 a.m. after they seized the phone, records show. Officer Randy Hays, who was also involved in Hall's arrest, called three times between 11:28 a.m. and 11:29 a.m.
The FBI logged it all.
In the following weeks, agents would use the info from Boone's accounts and seized phone to persuade a judge to sign additional warrants for Myers and Hays. They also filed a warrant for more info from Boone's Apple account.
The three cops were among dozens of officers assigned to the police department's Civil Disobedience Team, the helmeted and controversial squad better known as the riot police.
The undercover, Hall, later told investigators
uniformed police smashed a camera and a cell phone he had been using to record the protesters and twice slammed him face first into the pavement. Hall described the attack as a "free for all" in which he suffered multiple herniated discs, a gashed lip and a jaw injury that made eating so difficult he lost fifteen pounds.
The early messages captured from Boone's cell phone account caught the officers trying to rationalize what they had done while worrying about landing in trouble.
In one message, Hays wrote, "Wasn't just us, I don't like the beating the hell outta a cop, but the department put him in that spot, he could've announced himself at any time. And he wasn't complying. The camera thing is just ignorant, nothing we all haven't done and if it was a protester it wouldn't be a problem at all."
In November 2018, the three were indicted along with Officer Bailey Colletta, who dates Hays and is accused of trying to conceal what happened. All four have all pleaded not guilty.
The results of the later search warrants have not been publicly disclosed, but agents say in the affidavits they're searching for a wide range of info, including texts, photos, videos and location data tied to the protests and the beating of Hall.
They also planned to check the physical phones against the messages and logs they had already collected to see if the cops were trying to delete their messages to cover their tracks.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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