As if the St. Louis area hasn’t had enough tension between the community and police officers to deal with over the last year, another disturbing incident has come to light. A disturbing photo of a cop kneeling over a dead black man, posing with a smile and giving the thumbs-up sign, surfaced online recently.
And now the mother of the deceased man, a possible victim of a drug overdose, wants answers after News 4 in St. Louis, which acquired the photograph, showed it to her. How the station obtained the photograph remains a mystery, and a huge problem for the seemingly clueless North County Police Cooperative.
The deceased’s mother, Kim Staton, says after News 4 got involved police told her their official crime scene camera had been missing for a time and that pictures were also gone. But somebody had access to the photographs and made sure that Stanton and the public became aware of this one police officer’s “hideous” behavior, as described by Staton’s attorney Antonio Romanucci.
“Had you not received that photograph we wouldn’t know this. We would never have known this,” Romanucci told News 4. “I have seen thousands and thousands of forensic photographs. I have never seen a staged photograph of an officer next to a deceased body.”
When News 4 pressed for answers about how the photograph was leaked and what the circumstances were at the scene that allowed for such deplorable behavior, Chief Tim Swope, the head of the North County Police Cooperative, refused to go on-camera, saying that they were conducting an internal and external investigation into “the totality” of the situation.
In fact, News 4 says the chief has declined all of its offers to show him the photo.
Staton’s son, 28-year-old Omar Rahman, was found dead in a home on Aug. 8. The North County Police Cooperative responded and the Medical Examiner ruled it an accidental drug overdose. Weeks later the photo apparently depicting the scene of her son’s death was leaked out.
The officer in question is wearing gloves, holding onto the arm of the body and giving a thumbs up.
“In your mind, is there any reasonable explanation for what that officer was doing?” News 4’s investigative reporter Lauren Trager asked Staton.
“No, because when they come to a call, they’re supposed to be there to help and protect, not doing what he was doing with thumbs up and a smirk on his face,” Staton said.
News 4 sought the expertise of former St. Louis police chief Dan Isom to give his opinion on the situation. He can’t fathom why Chief Swope is seemingly burying his head in the sand by not even wanting to see the photograph.
“As a chief would you want to see the picture before you make that determination?” Trager asked the former chief.
“See it, talk to the officer, get all the information relative to why they were there,” Isom said.
It would certainly seem to make sense.