Boyfriend is charged in killing of Mo. officer

By Tim Rowden and Heather Ratcliffe
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.
All Rights Reserved 

Amanda Cates was a school resource officer for the Normandy Police Department


Robert Brooks is a police officer in Calverton Park

Those who knew her say Amanda Cates was a warm, compassionate police officer who cared as much for helping people as she did for catching criminals.

But behind the scenes, authorities say, Cates was involved in a violent relationship that exploded Tuesday with a single gunshot that took her life.

Authorities filed charges against Cates' boyfriend, Robert Brooks, 37, a police officer from Calverton Park. Both were off-duty at the time.

It happened at the home they shared at 43 Harbor Pointe Court, a mixed-income neighborhood in Crystal City in Jefferson County.

Brooks called police from the house at 12:28 a.m. and told them he had shot Cates by accident because he believed she was an intruder, officials said.

But prosecutors filed charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. Brooks was held with bail set at $250,000.

Brooks' 14-year-old daughter was in the home when the shooting took place and was not hurt.

Cates, 26, a four-year veteran of the Normandy Police Department, had worked the past three years as a school resource officer at Normandy Middle School.

School spokeswoman Charlene Goston said the principal broke the news to students and staff during morning announcements Tuesday, and asked for a moment of silence.

"She had a pretty positive and warm relationship with most of the students here," Gotson said. Counselors were called to provide grief support.

Normandy police Chief Douglas Lebert said his small department, which he joined just a few weeks ago, was mourning the loss of a family member.

"It's like being punched in the stomach and unable to catch your breath," Lebert said. He recalled Cates as a passionate officer who enjoyed her work at the school and spent the summer working with teachers on projects for the new school year.

Lebert praised Cates for how she would "pour her heart and soul into her work. . . . She genuinely cared for and loved the kids there."

Manchester Police Chief John Connolly, who hired Cates in 2002 when he was chief in Normandy, said, "She was everything you would want in a police officer." He added, "She was not so much a police officer who just wanted to catch bad guys. She wanted to be a police officer who made a difference by reaching out to people and helping them.

"She was always, always in the most positive spirit about things."

People close to Cates said she moved in with Brooks and his daughter several years ago.

Brooks' attorney, Brad Kessler, said he could not comment Tuesday evening because he had not seen the charges. Kessler said Brooks allowed authorities to search the home.

Brooks' daughter told police her father came home around midnight and started arguing with Cates. It turned physical she said, and she heard "some kind of boom" as Cates tried to lock herself in a bathroom off of the master bedroom.

The daughter told police she ran to the bathroom and found Cates lying on the floor, covered in blood.

According to court documents, the teen told investigators she often heard her father and Cates arguing through the wall of her bedroom and had previously heard Cates tell her father: "Go ahead . . . pull the trigger."

An autopsy revealed that Cates died of a single gunshot in the head/neck area.

Police seized a Smith and Wesson semiautomatic handgun that Brooks said he used, police said.

Lillian Chandler, the couple's next door neighbor, said she had been unaware of any problems in the house and was shocked by the shooting.

"I feel so bad for (Brooks') daughter," Chandler said

Capt. Jeff McCreary of the Crystal City police said there was no history of domestic violence complaints at the home.

Brooks joined the Jennings Police Department in 1992, left for a short time and returned to law enforcement about a year ago with the Calverton Park police.

In 1996, Jennings police assigned Brooks to administrative duties when the state suspended his drivers license after he was charged with driving while intoxicated in Crawford County.

A Missouri Highway Patrol trooper had arrested Brooks after a vehicle crash. Brooks' blood alcohol was 0.13 percent, according to court records. Brooks pleaded not guilty. The final disposition of the case was not available Tuesday.

Brooks' family declined comment on the shooting Tuesday.

Among Cates' survivors are her parents, Michael and Carolyn Cates, and two brothers, Brad and Mike Clay Cates. The only family member reached declined to comment.

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