Watch: Video Shows 'Escalating' Situation After Cop Car Plows into Gay Bar
Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.
A video has come to light that shows more of what went down after a police car rammed into a St. Louis gay bar in the late-night hours of Dec. 18, and the owner ended up in handcuffs.
News channel KSDK reported that the newly surfaced video shows the situation quickly escalating as one of the officers in the vehicle demands to see the identification of one of the owners of Bar:PM after the owners – married couple Chad Morris and James Pence – came downstairs to see what had happened.
The video shows the officers placing Morris under arrest after Morris questions the order to produce ID, telling the officers, "You cannot card me." The arresting officer responds, "Don't yell at me." As the exchange continues, the officer approaches Morris with handcuffs at the ready, saying, "You're raising your voice at me?"
Morris responds that it's "Because you just drove into" his bar.
"An officer only has the right to demand an ID if a person is driving a car or if the person has probable cause to think that the person committed a crime," the men's lawyer, Javad Khazaeli, who released the video to the media, told the news station.
The officers later claimed that Morris struck one of them, but previously released video of the interaction does not show that happening. Nor does the newly released footage.
The officers also claimed the Morris attempted to flee the scene and slammed a gate at the officers – none of which the video shows.
When the person making the video asks what crime Morris is committing, an officer responds that Morris is "creating a disturbance." The officer then threatens the person making the video with arrest.
"The person recording the video can be heard asking the officer for his badge number," the account narrates, adding that the officer told the person making the video, "Keep interfering and you'll be in handcuffs too, clown."
"Officers don't get to arrest you for yelling at them," Khazaeli told the news station. "In fact, there are Supreme Court cases that say you can curse at an officer."
Khazaeli described a situation in which Morris "was in bed, in his home, above his business, when a car smashed into his house."
"He immediately comes outside," Khazaeli continued, "and instead of being treated like a victim, an officer starts threatening him."
The lawyer added that the situation could have been handled quite differently. "They're supposed to protect and serve," Khazaeli said of the officers on the scene. "This officer immediately goes to rage level 10 and starts threatening everybody around them. He doesn't give his badge number."
Added the lawyer: "The officer was escalating. None of this would have happened if it wasn't for that."
As previously reported, police accounts of what caused the crash varied. A police report claimed, "An officer was driving too close to a parked car... and then overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, crashing into Bar."
But that wasn't the story the officers involved told at first, according to Pence, who told the media that the officers initially claimed they had swerved in order not to hit a dog.
Video of the crash posted by St. Louis news channel KMOV, however, does not appear to show any dog in the street. The video shows the police cruiser speeding past the camera, abruptly veering to the left as it passes a parked car on the right, cutting across the opposite lane of traffic, and plowing into the bar.
At the wheel of the time of the crash was "a 32-year-old probationary officer on the force less than a year," local news outlet the St. Louis Dispatch reported. Khazaeli noted that the officers in the vehicle were not tested for sobriety.
The bar's patrons quickly rallied to help clean up the wreckage. One volunteer, Giuliano Mangiore, outlined his reasons for being there to help. "This is a safe spot for people in our community," Mangiore told local newspaper the Post Dispatch. "This is like our family's place."
When KSDK contacted the police department for comment, the news station was told that prosecutors "are still pursuing misdemeanor charges against the owner of Bar:PM," the news report detailed.
To watch the news station's report, follow this link.
Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.