St. Louis LEO sues city after being shot by colleague

The off-duty officer was shot outside his home while officers were searching for a suspect

Erin Heffernan
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer who was shot while off duty by a fellow cop in 2017 filed a federal lawsuit Monday, alleging abuse by his own department and offering new details of the controversial shooting.

Officer Milton Green filed suit in U.S. District Court in St. Louis two years after he was shot on June 21, 2017, outside his home in the city's North Pointe neighborhood while officers were searching for suspects. The shooter, identified as Officer Christopher Tanner, and the city of St. Louis are named as defendants.

Court documents lay out Green's account of the shooting and, according to the suit, a lack of support from the department in the two years since. Police declined to comment.

In an exclusive interview with Post-Dispatch metro columnist Tony Messenger, Green said that if he were a white officer, he believes the department would have handled things differently. Green is black and the shooter, Tanner, is white.

“I wouldn't have gotten shot,” Green said. “How did he not see my badge in my hand? My gun was pointed down, and the other officers were calm. The detective told them who I was and told them not to shoot.”

According to the lawsuit, Green was working on his neighbor's car in their shared driveway when he heard a vehicle crash into another car at the nearby intersection of Park Lane and Astra Avenue.

Police said they were chasing a stolen white sedan. Occupants inside had shot at officers, striking police vehicles. When the car crashed, the occupants fled, police said.

Green says one of the suspects ran next to his house and dropped to the ground when police shot at him. The man then pointed his gun at Green and Green's neighbor. Green pulled out his department-issued gun and yelled: 'Police! Drop your gun!" the suit says.

The suit says the suspect ran off, and an officer told Green to drop his weapon and get to the ground; Green complied. Green alleges he told officers he was a police officer and a detective told Green to stand up and approach him.

When he stood up, the suit alleges, Tanner walked up and shouted for him to drop the weapon while simultaneously shooting Green.

"The racial implications of how Officer Green has been treated cannot be ignored," the suit states.

Green was shot in the arm and is still on medical leave. The suit says he cannot grip with the arm that was shot.

The suit also says Green faced a lack of support from the department and his fellow officers after the shooting.

"Had he been shot by the perps everyone would have considered him a hero," Green's attorney Javad Khazaeli said Monday. "It happened while he was trying to stop a criminal and now he's permanently disabled."

Since the shooting, Green has been disappointed by the department's handling of the situation.

“If I was white, I feel like I would have been taken care of,” he told Messenger. “That's how I feel.”

The suit asserts the department "has not handled its investigation of Officer Green's shooting with any solemnity."

The department's Force Investigative Unit investigated, but, according to the suit, placed the father of Tanner's police partner in charge of the review. The suit says Green has not been interviewed by the department as part of the investigation.

In 2017, the shooting prompted then-acting Chief Lawrence O’Toole to form a committee to decide how best to train officers for similar situations. St. Louis police did not immediately say the committee produced results.

The Ethical Society of Police, which represents many St. Louis minority officers, has routinely criticized the department's response to the shooting. The group suggested more racial bias training was needed instead of friendly-fire training.

Green also says he's suffered financially. His pension claim has not been resolved, while other claims from injured officers are quickly granted, the suit alleges.

Court documents claim the St. Louis Police Officer's Association raised $2,000 for Tanner, the shooter, but held no fundraisers for Green. Jeff Roorda, business manager for the union, denied Monday that the association had hosted a fundraiser for Tanner and said that the union's charitable foundation donated money to Green.

Green, who has been a police officer since 2005, is now "drowning in bills," close to losing his home, and struggling to support himself and his four children, Khazaeli said.

Tanner was placed on administrative leave after the shooting and is no longer employed by the department.

Police took into custody two of the suspects who allegedly fled the car at the shooting scene. They were charged with a combined 31 felonies in 2017, but all charges were dropped by the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office earlier this month.

The circuit attorney's office has not explained why the charges were dropped.

A third person who had been in the stolen car escaped, police said in 2017.


©2019 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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