Officer Steven Blakeney Terrorized the St. Louis Area. Why Did No One Stop This Very Bad Cop?

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Officer Steven Blakeney Terrorized the St. Louis Area. Why Did No One Stop This Very Bad Cop?
ILLUSTRATION BY KELLY GLUECK

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click to enlarge Cheris and Earl Metts Jr. helped launch the Concerned Citizens of Pine Lawn activist group. - PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
Cheris and Earl Metts Jr. helped launch the Concerned Citizens of Pine Lawn activist group.

If there was any doubt who ran Pine Lawn's cops while Collins was still in the chief's seat, the confusion ended when he departed, former officers say. At that point, Blakeney seemed unstoppable.

Officer Ben Petrov claimed he had to abandon his patrol in Pine Lawn at least ten times to escort Blakeney through St. Louis after he'd been drinking at a bar in the Hi-Pointe neighborhood.

"I can recall two times Lt. Blakeney told me he was heading to a strip club in Illinois but wanted an escort through St. Louis City," Petrov wrote in an internal complaint. "I was further instructed to follow him until I reached the Illinois State Line and then I was to turn around and return to the City of Pine Lawn. Both times I escorted him he traveled at a high rate of speed pulling away from me."

If Blakeney was nervous about being pulled over by St. Louis city cops, it wasn't without reason. Detectives had taken him into custody in 2012, while he was an active-duty cop in Pine Lawn, and interrogated him for three hours as part of an investigation into an alleged rape.

A 21-year-old woman from Alton, Illinois, had claimed Blakeney sexually assaulted her early one morning at the old Marriott hotel at Union Station after drinking at Laclede's Landing and a strip club on the East Side.

When she met Blakeney near closing time at Big Daddy's bar, the separated father of two had been wearing his badge around his neck on a chain and had a pistol hidden in his waistband. She says Blakeney later bought her a vodka and Sprite at the Penthouse Club in Sauget, but she set it down because it tasted funny.

They eventually headed to the woman's room at the Marriott with her friends and Blakeney's stepbrother. She told detectives she thought she told him to stop when he began to have sex with her on the bed, but the events were hazy. She was certain, however, that she had made her lack of consent clear when he climbed back on top of her a few hours later.

The woman told detectives she woke to Blakeney penetrating her with his fingers. When she tried to make him stop, he glanced over at his gun on the nightstand, she said.

"The victim looked at the pistol at which time she conceded that she could not resist," detectives wrote in their report. "Fearing for her safety, the victim laid down with the suspect rolling on top of her and engaging her in sexual intercourse."

Blakeney left that morning. But after the woman contacted detectives, incredibly, he returned to the hotel that afternoon to retrieve a black "POLICE" ball cap he'd left behind. Detectives took him into custody after spotting him near the elevators.

"Please tell me that girl was of age," he said, according to detectives.

Questioned about their encounter, Blakeney corroborated much of the woman's story, but he insisted the sex was consensual, according to the police report. Prosecutors from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office eventually declined to issue charges.

It wasn't the first time Blakeney was accused of sexual assault. Six years before, the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department investigated allegations that Blakeney, then a bar manager, sexually abused an underage teen after giving her alcohol. The detective on the case uncovered multiple young women who said they'd been drugged and sexually assaulted by Blakeney, according to a warrant application. One former co-worker claimed he loaded her up with Jager bombs and pills one night when she came to work sick. She told the detective she woke up after the bar had closed, lying on a stage with Blakeney's hands down her pants.

Blakeney denied all the allegations, and charges were never filed.

Neither the St. Charles prosecutor nor a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney responded to a request for comment.

No one wanted to take on Blakeney, Marshall says, even after Pine Lawn officers brought complaints to city officials. That only made Blakeney bolder, she says.

"You cannot imagine how the police department was held hostage for five years," Marshall says.

Pine Lawn's city attorney, prosecutor and former city manager all say that complaints about Blakeney either didn't reach them or were not their jurisdiction. But Blakeney's fellow cops in Pine Lawn were aware of his reputation. Former Officer Mike Bland says Blakeney was known to stake out I-70 late at night, waiting for strippers commuting from the Illinois clubs.

"It was common knowledge he was pulling over strippers, white female strippers," he says.

Bland claims Blakeney would disappear during the night shift and then return, acting strange. Certain that Blakeney was on drugs or drunk, he says he called the Missouri Highway Patrol one night and asked them to pull him over, but troopers declined. (A highway patrol spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.)

A female Bel-Nor police officer complained in 2012 that Blakeney had been harassing her for months. He would listen for her voice over the police radio, and then drop by when she was making a traffic stop, according to a letter her chief wrote to Pine Lawn's chief.

At first, it seemed annoying but harmlessly juvenile, like a schoolboy trying to impress a girl. Blakeney took a CD out of her car and refused to give it back unless she would meet him, she claimed. He'd park his Dodge Charger the wrong direction and block traffic, just to show he could.

But the interactions turned nastier when he'd spot her out at bars with her boyfriend and other friends. Blakeney and his fellow Pine Lawn officers would start arguments, and the two sides once squared off in a north county bar before other officers intervened, according to the letter.

Word got back to the officer that Blakeney was spreading rumors they were sleeping together. Bel-Nor's chief warned that the officer was "going to consider filing criminal charges for harassment" against Blakeney if he didn't leave her alone.

These kinds of battles were beginning to filter past Pine Lawn residents and law enforcement circles to news reporters. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had been digging into Pine Lawn for a while and KMOV's top investigator, Craig Cheatham, found that license plates from impounded vehicles were showing up on Blakeney's vehicles.

But Fox 2's ace investigative reporter Chris Hayes seemed to take a special interest in Blakeney. Hayes reported a series of stories, describing questionable car stops, a spotty police academy record and allegations of sexual assault that dated back to Blakeney's days as a bar manager and tow truck driver.

Blakeney denied it all, and in a move that would become familiar to a number of his enemies, he filed a lawsuit against Hayes and his station.

Hayes didn't respond to the RFT's request for comment, but the lawsuit seemed to have the desired effect. Hayes moved on to other stories. When Blakeney was eventually sentenced to a little less than four years in federal prison, Fox 2 covered the news on its website by posting an Associated Press story.

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