'Zoo Keepers Cut Off the Supply of Bananas' — Ex-Sergeant's Racist Texts

click to enlarge Retired St. Louis police Sgt. Anthony Boone in June 2020. - DOYLE MURPHY
Retired St. Louis police Sgt. Anthony Boone in June 2020.

Warning: Text messages quoted in this story include racial epithets.

In a letter, retired St. Louis police Sergeant Anthony "Tony" Boone wrote that his stepson Dustin Boone decided to switch careers from electrician to city cop because he wanted to "follow in my footsteps." If racist text messages released in newly filed court documents are any indication, that's exactly what happened.

As protesters hit the streets in 2017 following the acquittal of a former police officer accused of murder, the elder Boone texted family members, "The zoo keepers cut off the supply of bananas and they are PISSED."

Two days later, he texted, "I'm sure the primate house will be the first to get broken into—free all their cousins and shit."

Federal prosecutors had focused on Dustin Boone's text messages during his two trials for the beating of a Black undercover officer. Convicted in June, he was among uniformed officers who pummeled Detective Luther Hall, kneeling on Hall's back and pinning his head to the street during the career-ending assault. Messages recovered from Dustin Boone's phone by FBI agents captured him and other officers bragging about beating protesters as well as jubilant descriptions of abusing and humiliating people in other incidents during his two-year career.

The messages revealed in court filings had focused on what Dustin Boone wrote, generally omitting responses by others who were not on trial. But after his family members wrote letters to a judge extolling the virtues of the now-former officer in hopes of earning him a lenient prison sentence, prosecutors responded by revealing excerpts from the family's toxic group texts.

Along with messages from Anthony Boone, there are epithet-laden texts attributed to Boone's mom and sister.

"Holy fuck, I hate niglets," Dustin Boone's mother, Melissa Boone, wrote on September 22, 2017.

A month later, Dustin Boone sent a photo of a cash-stuffed purse he had seized, and she responded, "that's what you call a nigga wad."

On September 30, 2017, Dustin Boone's sister, Kayla Boone texted about the protests, saying, "idk they were yelling and singing songs and banging drums like they were back in Africa doing a rain dance."

Anthony Boone was still on the force for nearly three years after the texts in question, retiring in January 2020 after 30 years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Asked whether the department had concerns about Anthony Boone's cases and, more broadly, racism among St. Louis police, a department spokeswoman said in an email that the "reported statements by the former employee are absolutely disturbing."

The spokeswoman noted the department had contracted with a consultant to "conduct a more robust racial bias and diversity training class as part of our Continuing Education program for all commissioned officers. This training began near the end of the summer and is near completion. While racial bias and diversity training is a yearly, mandatory component for all licensed Missouri Police Officers, we will continue to explore comprehensive training classes such as this to fulfill our Continuing Education requirements, and incorporating it into our Academy training."

Dustin Boone's attorneys are requesting a sentence of 26 months in prison when he's sentenced next week, well below the ten years recommended by sentencing guidelines and requested by prosecutors. In hopes of showing their client in the best light, they included Boone's awards from the department and a dozen letters from relatives, cops and friends. The letters describe Boone as a loving dad and generous neighbor and friend. Those who address his racist text messages described them as an aberration, contrary to his character.

The Ethical Society of Police, an organization primarily of minority police officers, released a statement saying officers such as Boone must be held accountable.

"The quotes about Mr. Boone's character and explanations of his racist texts in an effort to slash his jail time also do not give him a pass on assisting with Det. Luther Hall’s career-ending injuries," the organization said. "Mr. Boone, 10 years will not replace the lifetime of healing that Det. Luther Hall will have to experience."

In his letter to Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Webber, Anthony Boone describes a close relationship with his stepson, saying that he had tried to legally adopt Dustin Boone but was thwarted by Dustin Boone's biological dad.

Anthony and Dustin Boone were so close that Dustin Boone legally changed his last name to match his stepfather's in 2007 and presented the documents as a Christmas present, Anthony Boone writes. The retired sergeant concedes in the letter that the text messages Dustin Boone sent were "vile" (not mentioning his own messages) but insists that's not the kind of man his stepson is. Near the end, he urges the judge to consider Dustin Boone's upbringing:

"Melissa and I taught Dustin to treat everyone with respect and fairness and it shows in his personal life as well as when he was an electrician and continued to show in his work as a police officer."

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected] or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.
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