Black undercover police officer beaten up by his own colleagues awarded $23.5m

Fellow undercover officer told investigators police in riot gear ‘beat the f*** out of [Mr Hall] like Rodney King’

Graig Graziosi
Friday 19 April 2024 23:07 BST
Related video: Protests in St. Louis after officer Jason Stockley found not guilty in killing of Anthony Smith

Luther Hall, a St Louis police officer, was present at a street protest in 2017 where he was working undercover. His disguise was apparently so good that his fellow officers failed to recognise him when they mercilessly beat him on the street.

On Monday, Mr Hall was awarded $23.5m for the attack, according to the St Louis American.

The incident occurred two days after Jason Stockley, a former St Louis police officer, was acquitted of the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith.

Police expected that there could be protests following the acquittal, and dispatched 200 officers from a "Civil Disobedience Team" that weekend in 2017.

More than 120 people were arrested, including Mr Hall and his colleague Louis Naes, a white officer also embedded undercover with the marchers.

Mr Naes told investigators that his arrest was "routine," but said police clad in riot-gear "beat the f*** out of [Mr Hall] like Rodney King”.

Former St Louis police officer Luther Hall pictured here with injuries he sustained when his colleagues beat him during a protest in 2017 (Trial photos)

In 2018, four St Louis police officers were indicted on federal charges. Three were accused of beating an undercover colleague, and all four implicated in covering up the incident.

Prosecutors argued that officers Dustin Boone, Randy Hays, and Christopher Myers slammed Mr Hall to the ground, kicked him, and beat him with metal batons, despite him being "compliant and not posing a physical threat to anyone."

The indictment also revealed messages sent between the officers in which they expressed their disdain for the protesters and their excitement for the chance to beat them.

In an exchange on 15 September, 2017, just two days before the incident, Myers wrote "let's kick some a**," to which Boone replied "it's gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s***heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!"

Judge Joseph Whyte noted during Monday’s hearing that after Mr Hall was assaulted, Hays sent a text message to another officer, saying that if they had beaten a protester rather than a police officer, “it wouldn’t be a problem at all.”

Mr Whyte said that Hays’ messages and actions indicated “complete indifference” to “an individual he believed to be an unarmed African American doing nothing wrong”, according to the New York Times.

Boone, Hays, and Myers were charged with depriving Mr Hall of his constitutional rights, and for conspiring to obstruct justice. A fourth officer, Bailey Colletta, was accused by a grand jury of lying about the incident when she told the panel that Mr Hall was "brought to the ground very gently".

Mr Hall's jaw was damaged after he suffered a kick to the face. The blow was so severe that he was unable to eat during his recovery and he lost approximately 20 pounds as a result.

During the criminal trial on 2 February, 2022, Mr Hall gave an emotional account of the attack, KMOV reported.

“Feet, fist, sticks. People punching me. I was being held down,” he said. “It felt like [it went on] forever laying there.”

Mr Hall said he knew he had been injured, but could not tell the severity of his injuries at the time of the attack.

“I was in a lot of pain,” he said.

He also testified that his tailbone was injured in the attack, and that he needed surgery to repair two herniated discs in his neck and back.

Prosecutors said the three indicted officers lied about the arrest, claiming that Mr Hall "resisted and was not compliant," and revealed that officers tried to contact him to persuade him not to press charges or pursue legal action.

St Louis Police Officer Randy Hays exits the federal courthouse following his first court appearance, Nov. 30, 2018. Hays was sentenced to 52 months in prison and two years of probation (AP)

Boone was convicted and sentenced to 366 days in prison, while Myers was given a year's probation. Colletta was given three years probation and two consecutive weekends in prison for lying to the grand jury.

Both Colletta and Hays pleaded guilty to their charges. Hays was sentenced to 52 months in prison and two years of probation, according to NBC5.

Mr Hall also sued Boone, Hays, and Myers for the attack. He was awarded $5m from the city, and on Monday was awarded $10m in punitive damages, $11m for past and future physical and emotional pain, and nearly $2m for lost wages.

In addition, he was awarded more than $213,000 for lost delayed retirement and insurance benefits, as well as $366,000 for past and future medical expenses.

Rev Darryl Gray, who at the time served as a community liaison for the Ethical Society of Police, which represents primarily Black officers, said he was happy to see Mr Hall achieve some justice, and hopes the incident will illustrate the complaints groups like his have raised.

“Unfortunately, this happened to Luther [Hall] but it’s not uncommon,”Mr Gray told the St Louis American. “That’s what we’ve been trying to say, hoping that police will acknowledge that the complaints and concerns we’ve raised over the years have been genuine.

He said he hopes that the trial's findings will vindicate "what the activist community has been crying out for all these years: accountability".

The city also agreed to pay out $5m to nearly seven dozen people who accused the police of violating their rights during the 2017 protests.

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