Christine Byers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 14, 2014
Gunshot residue tests and ballistics evidence indicate that Vonderitt D. Myers Jr. fired a gun at a police officer before being fatally shot, police and union officials said Tuesday.
Although police officials have already said that Myers fired at least three shots at an off-duty police officer before the officer returned fire, the newly released evidence could further dispel claims by friends and family that Myers was holding a sandwich, not a gun, when he was shot. The officer, who has not been named, was working for a private security company in the Shaw neighborhood.
Myers’ Oct. 8 death sparked protests in Shaw and fueled area-wide protests resulting from the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.
The Missouri Highway Patrol analysis found gunshot residue on Myers’ hands, on his shirt and inside the waistband and pockets of his jeans. Police said that although gunshot residue can be present on anyone near a shooting, the results show levels consistent with Myers being the shooter, because the police officer was standing too far away.
Ballistics evidence also revealed three bullets that hit the ground where the officer was trying to take cover matched Myers’ gun. A round found inside a car behind the officer was too badly damaged to be able to match it to his gun, however, it did not match the type of bullets the officer fired, police said.
Several photographs showing Myers holding three guns, including one that looked like the stolen Smith & Wesson gun recovered at the scene, circulated on social media after his death. The police officer’s attorney, Brian Millikan, said that his client recognized both Myers and the distinctive, two-tone semiautomatic in the pictures.
Neil Bruntrager, who is co-counsel of the St. Louis Police Officers Association along with Millikan, said that he’d been told the same by the Force Investigation Unit, which is investigating the shooting. The pictures were taken down from at least one Instagram account Monday or early Tuesday, after a series of comments appeared on the account for “lil_ronny_shaw_head,” including, “I hope you delete all of these pictures, if it’s justice you really want! this doesn’t help us get it!”
Bruntrager said that the elephant-shaped medallion Myers is wearing in the posted pictures was found on his body, and the shirt he was wearing in at least one picture was the one he was wearing in a store security video taken the night of the shooting. Myers went to a convenience store and bought a sandwich shortly before he was killed.
St. Louis Police Officers’ Association business manager Jeff Roorda called the actions of certain politicians, who he would not name, “disgusting.” Roorda noted that politicians criticizing the police have been absent from discussions about the creation of a gun docket in the city, which proponents say would cut down on violent crime by speeding up criminal cases, making judges more accountable and facilitating research on the effectiveness of the changes.
Roorda also complained about protesters’ reactions to the shooting.
“The response in this case, and I’m afraid in future cases, is completely devoid of the facts,” he said. “Protesters demanded immediate answers and demanded officers not shoot unarmed suspects. Everything they asked for in Ferguson they got in Shaw, and it still wasn’t enough.”