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Monday, September 15, 2014

Still No Answers Seven Months After Police Shoot and Kill Stephon Averyhart

Posted By on Mon, Sep 15, 2014 at 6:00 AM

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Seven months have passed since police officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department shot and killed 27-year-old Stephon Averyhart during a wild chase, but the investigation is still ongoing and few details have been released. Now, the mother of the deceased wants to know why it's taking so long -- and why she has never been contacted by police since they called her to identify her son's body.

On February 12, Averyhart was fleeing police before he crashed his car into a telephone poll near the corner of Harney Avenue and Union Boulevard. He then jumped out of the car and ran as officers followed him on foot. Averyhart turned into an alley and then was shot dead by the officers. The officers say Averyhart pointed a gun at them first and a gun was found on the scene. But friends and relatives say he although he kept a gun for self-protection, he wasn't the type to shoot at police; he was just running to evade getting arrested for warrants from unpaid tickets.

The only blemishes on Averyhart's criminal record are traffic tickets and a misdemeanor marijuana charge.

See also: Police Shoot, Kill Wanted Suspect Stephon Averyhart After Back-Alley Chase

Whatever happened that day, Averyhart's mother Stacey Hill says she has been left in the dark about details. The only thing she knows about the shooting is what was reported in local news -- which was all based almost exclusively on a 215-word explanation in a press release. Other than that, she has heard nothing.

The only official contact between Hill and the SLMPD was when she got the call to identify Averyhart at the Medical Examiner's office.

"From that day to this day nobody has ever called me and said anything about my son," Hill tells Daily RFT.

The number of times Averyhart was shot, where on his body he was shot, whether there were witnesses, and if the police officers' shooting was justified according to protocol are all questions she has that have not been answered by police. It's a stark contrast to the handling of the Kajieme Powell shooting, which Chief Sam Dotson said he wanted to be as transparent as possible in order to avoid making the same mistakes the Ferguson Police Department made after the Michael Brown shooting.

"The whole time I was thinking about the things that happened in Ferguson, and how to make sure the lessons learned in Ferguson were not lessons repeated here," Dotson said at a hearing about the department's use of force policy last week.

Dotson made a point of releasing information about the Powell, including a video that captured the entire incident.

But Averyhart was killed in February, six months before the Brown shooting that has led to increased scrutiny on police brutality -- and information about Averyhart's death is scarce.

In an email, Leah Freeman, a spokesperson for the SLMPD, says the investigation is still ongoing and that's why so little information can be given out. However, she was able to confirm that the officers involved in the shooting are back on duty.

But Hill wants to know why the investigation is taking seven months. And if police are still investigating, what are they doing?

Click on the next page for more information about the investigation...

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