St. Louis police still recovering a year after protests

1 year 3 weeks 3 days ago Friday, September 21 2018 Sep 21, 2018 Friday, September 21, 2018 4:44:27 PM CDT September 21, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some St. Louis police officers are still struggling with injuries more than a year after protesters took to the streets when a white former officer was acquitted in the death of a black suspect.

About 30 St. Louis police officers were injured while responding to protests against the acquittal of Jason Stockley last year, according to then-Interim Police Chief Lawrence O'Toole.

Stockley was charged in 2016 with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. A judge last September found Stockley not guilty, setting off weeks of violent protests that led to hundreds of arrests.

At least five officers were hospitalized, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

One officer remains on leave to recover from his injuries that his fellow officers inflicted on him after they mistook him for a protester and arrested him while he was undercover. He declined to comment.

The incident is part of a federal investigation into how the department handled the protests, which have resulted in 14 lawsuits against the city.

Sgt. John McLaughlin, 54, returned to duty for the first time last week after suffering a concussion and a knee injury.

McLaughlin was working as part of an evidence team during a Sept. 15, 2017 protest when he was injured. He was collecting rocks, frozen water bottles, landscaping pavers, bricks, pieces of metal and sewer cap covers that had been thrown at officers.

He was hit by a water bottle that was dropped from a window, leaving him with paralyzing headaches for months.

"I have problems getting words out, forming my thoughts," he said. "I'm not the same person I was. I'm not confident anymore. It's been pretty tough for the past year, but I gotta get back for many reasons."

Sgt. Joe Hill's shoulder was dislocated from being struck by a chunk of granite from a curb. The 44-year-old later found out that he also tore all the ligaments in his hand and broke several bones from punching a protester whom he said attacked him.

Hill returned to full duty three weeks ago, but he needed another hand surgery. He'll be out until at least Oct. 18.

"People tell me, 'Take your disability,' but I can still work," he said. "I don't want to be disabled. I'm miserable if I'm not a cop. I can't imagine going out like this."

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