A police SUV slammed into a bar in St. Louis. Police response drawing scrutiny

Dec 21, 2023, 9:02 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police are pledging a thorough investigation after a police SUV slammed into a bar. But supporters of the bar question why one of the owners was arrested in the aftermath of the accident, while the officers in the SUV were not tested for intoxication.

No one was hurt early Monday when the police car struck the front of Bar:PM in south St. Louis but the front window was smashed. Video footage released Wednesday by Javad Khazaeli, the attorney for the bar owners, showed what he said was the same police SUV running a red light seconds before the crash. Another video showed the SUV suddenly veer into the building.

A message left Thursday with police was not immediately returned.

Chad Morris, who owns the bar with his husband, was arrested and charged with assault and resisting arrest for allegedly striking an officer after the crash, then trying to run away. He was released from jail Tuesday. Supporters packed the bar that night.

Police Lt. Col. Renee Kriesmann said during a news briefing Wednesday that the officers involved in the crash were not tested for drugs or alcohol because other officers at the crash scene did not have reasonable suspicion of impairment, as required by department policy for toxicology testing.

Both officers have less than a year of experience with the department and remain on active duty, Kriesmann said.

“We would like to ensure to the owners of the bar and the community that every aspect of this incident is being thoroughly investigated,” Kriesmann said.

But Khazaeli questioned if the officers were getting special treatment.

“If I crashed into a building, while speeding, after midnight, after running a stop light, there is no way that I could have a co-worker decide that I should not get a breathalyzer,” Khazaeli wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Security camera video from the opposite side of the street from the bar, released by Khazaeli earlier this week, showed the police SUV on a mostly desolate street suddenly swerve across the center line and slam into the front of the bar. Kriesmann said the officer driving the SUV was distracted while adjusting the radio and then swerved to avoid hitting a parked car.

Khazaeli has claimed the SUV was speeding, but Kriesmann said it was going about 40 mph (64 kph) before the accident and 20 mph (32 kph) upon impact, according to the black box in the vehicle that records data.

The officers were wearing body cameras but police declined to release footage, citing the ongoing investigation. The SUV did not have a dash camera, police said.

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A police SUV slammed into a bar in St. Louis. Police response drawing scrutiny