Last updated: 5 months ago
A grand jury ruled that a St. Louis County police officer was justified in fatally shooting Annette Green as officers served a search warrant for drugs at her home in Wellston, Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch announced Friday.
Green, 37, who was killed Feb. 6 on a stairway of her home in the 1500 block of Valle Avenue, had an "extraordinarily high" level of cocaine in her blood, which may have made her particularly aggressive, McCulloch said.
Police said they thought she had a gun or knife, and fired after she ignored orders to stop. They said she turned out to have been carrying a foot-long carriage bolt.
Said McCulloch: "In addition to the officers, everybody in the house heard some version of 'Stop, police! Stop, police! Show me your hands!' Everyone heard that."
Green, who was on probation for selling marijuana to undercover police, was African-American and the officer who shot her was white. That combination invited scrutiny from civil rights leaders already on edge after two unarmed black men were shot by police under county command in a drug arrest in Berkeley in June.
A county grand jury cleared the two officers involved in that case, but federal authorities have yet to announce a conclusion to their separate investigation.
Police and prosecutors refused to identify the officers who fired shots in either incident.
On Friday, McCulloch noted the diversity of the grand jury that unanimously decided not to pursue criminal charges in the Wellston case: two blacks, two Hispanics and eight whites. He said they heard at least 34 witnesses over two days.
Officials said Green confronted a dozen officers from the county police narcotics and tactical operations units. One fired four shots, hitting her twice. She died on arrival at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Since the shooting, family members and activists have asked for an independent review board to look at police-related shootings. The County Council is still working out details of such a board and what powers it would have, said Mac Scott, a spokesman for County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall.
McCulloch said he doubts any other board would differ with the finding of the grand jury, which he noted is also an independent panel.
"It's not a possibility, " he said. "It's tragic, but is apparent it is justified and lawful."
Activists said the grand jury's findings did not surprise them, and they renewed calls for a permanent civilian review board.
At least one, John Chasnoff, repeated complaints heard after the Berkeley shooting that McCulloch might not be impartial because his father, a St. Louis police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty. "He's the one with the power to present the evidence to the grand jury, and it's really in his lap, " Chasnoff said.
McCulloch has insisted his performance is not swayed by his father's killing.
Green's sister, Betty Williams, remained skeptical about the official version of the incident.
"I knew her, (the police officer) didn't know her, and we know she wasn't some violent type of person, " she said. "I was just thinking, when you've got your hands in a lion's mouth, there's nothing you can do about it. Justice will come one day."
Said Green's mother, Bertha Williams: "They didn't have to shoot her. I know that it is not justice at all. "
According to McCulloch and the results of a county police investigation, the home on Valle had been condemned a month before and was the target of numerous complaints by neighbors who said crack was sold there.
Police said they served a search warrant there in February 2000, finding cocaine and recovering a loaded handgun from under a seat cushion where Green was sitting. She was put on probation in September for selling marijuana to an undercover county detective in 1998.
After an informer told police that crack cocaine was recently being sold and hidden at the Valle address, police applied for and got another search warrant.
They arrived late the afternoon of Feb. 6 while Green was inside with two of her six sons - Travion Williams, 12, and Lavon Williams, 15 - and four men.
According to authorities, Romie Gomilia, 26, told police he had spent the afternoon at the house, smoking marijuana and playing video games.
Police said Kalvin Brown, 41, told them he was upstairs working on a broken sink and that he occasionally did work around Green's house in exchange for crack cocaine, which she otherwise sold for $50 apiece.
Lamar Edwards, 18, said that he had come over that day after basketball practice at school, according to police, and that he smoked marijuana before he went to sleep on an upstairs couch.
Police said Johnny Gates, 37, told them he was getting ready to watch cartoons and admitted drinking, taking pills and smoking marijuana there that day.
McCulloch said he is not prosecuting the other occupants of the house.
He said a neighbor testified before the grand jury that she had been on the phone with Green before - but not during - the shooting. She originally told Green's family and some reporters that she heard the shots over the phone, leaving an impression that what Green was really holding was a cordless phone.
Police reports released Friday show that officers knocked on the door and yelled, "County police, search warrant!" When they heard no response, two of them used a battering ram to break open the door.
A sergeant said they heard people in the upstairs, yelling, "The police are here! The police are here!"
One unidentified officer, with five years of experience, said he pointed his weapon, with a flashlight mounted on it, up the stairwell. He said he heard footsteps above and saw someone holding something shiny and metallic come around the corner and move toward him.
The person ignored commands to stop, police said, so the officer fired. Green fell backward and officers called an ambulance.
One officer with emergency medical training said she checked Green's condition and saw a shiny metal object fall from her hand. She told investigators she did not look closer at it because her first priority was tending to Green's injuries.