Video: Dashcam clears St. Louis cops of claim they held kids at gunpoint
Accusations on social media ignited protests and unrest outside the police HQ
By PoliceOne Staff
ST. LOUIS — Allegations that officers held a family at gunpoint led to a protest and the release of a video of the incident.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the claims, which were widely circulated on social media this week, were proven false by the release of dashcam video.
"This is a completely different interaction than what was described," Chief Sam Dotson told the publication. "There was no hostility on the part of the officers or the occupants inside the car.”
The video shows the officer having a cordial conversation during a Feb. 28 traffic stop . No guns were drawn. The vehicle was stopped because its license plate did not match the vehicle. There were two adults and four children inside the car.
A social media post about the incident written by Melissa Bennett went viral, resulting in protests against the police department.
Bennett claims she’s the family’s ‘spokesperson’ and that two of the children in the car were her niece and nephew. More posts circulated on social media quoted Bennett and spurred protests.
STL family- what do we know of SLMPD Officers Steven and Garrison? Dangerous tonight. DM any info.— White Folk Work (@WhiteFolkWork) February 29, 2016
The cops pointed guns at my 2 y/o nephew and 4 m/o niece tonight, because someone in the car looked at a cop while driving by them.— Koach Baruch (@drkoach) February 29, 2016
Over 75 people demonstrated outside police headquarters Monday.
The incident made it all the way to the Capitol where Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, complained about the incident to the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
When the president of the state’s Fraternal Order of Police, Kevin Ahlbrand, testified there was no evidence of the family’s claims, Chappelle-Nadal tweeted about the incident in support of the family.
Chappelle-Nadal told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the video doesn’t show everything.
Although no formal complaints were filed, Chief Dotson said he felt he had the obligation to be transparent with the community.
“This shows the vulnerability society has to social media, when an individual who may or may not be involved in an encounter casts a narrative that can't be vetted and there's no accountability,” Dotson told the publication. “This story is out there and it's been retweeted thousands of times, when factually we investigate it, there is no substance to the allegations at all.”
Bennett wrote on Facebook that she is not backing down from her original narrative.
“The video that has been released has no clear audio, and no clear shot of the car in question. It only supports my family's narrative...My family is b (sic) under attack,” she wrote.
Dotson believes this incident highlights the necessity of body cameras, according to the news site.
"This shouldn't make any police officer doubt the importance of body cameras," he said. "This is why I believe cameras, by in large, support the good work that police officers do."