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ACLU sues St. Louis, St. Clair County over actions in 2015 protests after Ball-Bey’s death

Relatives of Mansur Ball-Bey stand on the courthouse steps in 2016.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Relatives of Mansur Ball-Bey stand on the courthouse steps in 2016.

The ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit Friday against St. Louis and St. Clair County for alleged police misconduct during 2015 protests after Mansur Ball-Bey was fatally shot by police.

Thelawsuit claims officers used excessive force on protesters by “shooting tear gas and pepper spray at them though they were unarmed, non-threatening, non-violent, non-resisting and not suspected of committing any crime.”

Nine people were arrested on the evening of Aug. 19, 2015, during the demonstrations in St. Louis. Then-St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson saidat the time there were “repeated requests to disperse” and that protesters ignored the warnings about tear gas deployment. St. Clair County law enforcement helped with policing.

Ball-Bey, who was black and 18 years old, was killed by police in the Fountain Park neighborhood. Neither officer who fired their weapons was charged in the shooting of Ball-Bey, who police said pointed a gun while fleeing from officers who were searching a home.

“This lawsuit reveals a consistent pattern of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers repeatedly ignoring the First Amendment rights of the people they took an oath to protect and serve,” Tony Rothert, legal director of the state's American Civil Liberty Union branch, said in a statement. “Officers should never retaliate against people for nonviolently assembling or publicly grieving the loss of a member of the community.”

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the St. Louis mayor’s office and the St. Clair County sheriff’s office didn’t immediately return an emailed request for comment.

The suit’s timing comes as St. Louis and its police department face three lawsuits over use of force during protests in the wake of the Jason Stockley verdict. Stockley, who is a white former St. Louis officer, was acquitted of first-degree murder on Sept. 15 in the 2011 shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black.

Follow Erica on Twitter: @ehunzinger

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Erica Hunzinger brings several years of editing experience to the politics and education team. Before landing in St. Louis, Erica spent five years on The Associated Press' Central Region desk, handling a wide variety of topics with special emphasis on state government and agriculture and food supply. She also has been a sports copy editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, and an assistant news editor at The News Journal in Delaware. Erica holds a master's degree in humanities from the University of Chicago (poetry) and bachelor's in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. If you can't find her, try looking at Busch Stadium — or any other ball diamond in the region.