Nearly 350 St. Louis Cops Named in Class Action Suit 2 Years After Police 'Kettle'

Sep 17, 2019 at 4:53 pm
Police mass downtown on September 17, 2017, the night of the kettle. - THEO WELLING
Police mass downtown on September 17, 2017, the night of the kettle.
A new class action lawsuit names nearly 350 St. Louis police officers, alleging they acted together to illegally arrest and abuse protesters and others during demonstrations that followed the 2017 acquittal of a white cop charged with murdering a black man.

Attorney Javad Khazaeli of Khazaeli Wyrsch says officers took "extraordinary measures" to hide their identities on the night of September 17, 2017 when police trapped more than 100 people in a downtown intersection.

Their names and badges hidden, officers in riot gear swooped in that night for mass arrests. More than a dozen lawsuits have been filed in the aftermath, offering similar accounts of police mocking, beating and threatening anyone who happened to be on the street when cops encircled the intersection of Washington Avenue and Tucker Boulevard.

The incident has become infamous, known simply as "the kettle."

The new class action suit mirrors many of the allegations from previous suits but also accuses the officers who were working that night of conspiring in the abuse, either by actively taking part in the beatings and bogus arrests, doing nothing as it happened or failing to prevent their colleagues' illegal acts even as officers bragged about plans to pummel people.

Khazaeli says he and his clients have spent the past two years trying to identify all the officers who were involved or witnessed what happened, but the city has failed to provide complete lists, despite promises to vigorously investigate allegations of widespread abuse.

"This left us with no choice but to name over 340 officers who we believe were involved in the conspiracy and deprivation of our clients' rights," Khazaeli says.

Plaintiffs in the previously filed cases and their attorneys have been able to identity a number of the officers, but others remain as John and Jane Does. The list, cobbled together from what information the city has provided and other sources, is meant to cover all of the officers who were working that night.
Khazaeli says it was a necessary step, because it's clear police took steps to conceal badges and name tags, knowing they were going to attack people who took to the streets after ex-St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the 2011 killing of Anthony Lamar Smith.

Text messages obtained by FBI investigators show that officers accused of beating an undercover cop who had embedded with protesters that night counted on anonymity as they gleefully discussed plans to clobber protesters.

In the days before the kettle, Officer Dustin Boone sent a text saying, "[I]t's going to be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!"

Boone was later charged with multiple federal felonies along with officers Randy Hays and Christopher Myers in the beating of the undercover cop, Detective Luther Hall. A fourth officer, Bailey Colletta, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to a grand jury after she was caught trying to cover up the beating. She has been terminated from the department but has yet to be sentenced.

So far, those four officers have been the only cops criminally charged for what happened that night. 

Today is the two-year anniversary of the kettle, and Khazaeli says filing the class action suit preserves the rights of anyone who hasn't sued yet to join in the future.

Separately, Detective Hall has also marked the occasion by filing his own lawsuit. He alleges officers savagely beat him without provocation, smashing his cell phone and camera because they thought he was a protester.

And he also claims the city, all the way up to the mayor, tried to cover up what happened.

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the wrong date of the kettle. It has been corrected.

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