Milton Green lay in an emergency room bed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
The St. Louis cop had been shot in the forearm.
Interim Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole was by his side with a passel of other top brass from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. They asked Green what happened.
“I told them from beginning to end,” Green says.
Not long after the interview, O’Toole went before the press and told them that Green had been injured by “friendly fire.”
It wasn’t true. Green, who grew up in north St. Louis and has lived there most of his life, is black. He was shot by a white cop. That will be two years ago on Friday, and Green hasn’t been back to work. On Monday he filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, the police department and the officer who shot him.
“They abandoned him,” says Green’s attorney, Javad Khazaeli, of the Khazaeli Wyrsch law firm. The lawsuit alleges that Green was shot by a fellow officer, Christopher Tanner, because Green was a black man with a gun.
The federal suit comes at a precarious time for the city.
More than a dozen police officers are under investigation for a series of racist social media posts — some of them around the time Green was shot — that were unveiled by the Plain View Project, a database produced by Philadelphia attorney Emily Baker-White. Four officers from the department are under federal indictment for an incident involving a black undercover police officer, Luther Hall, getting beat up by police during protests following the Jason Stockley verdict.
In an exclusive interview with the Post-Dispatch, Green said that if he were a white officer, he believes the department would have handled everything differently.
“I wouldn’t have gotten shot,” Green said. “How did he not see my badge in my hand? My gun was pointed down, and the other officers were calm. The detective told them who I was and told them not to shoot.”
In the nearly two years since the shooting, Green has felt separated from the department he called home, where he had passed the sergeant’s exam and had hoped for a promotion.
“If I was white, I feel like I would have been taken care of,” he said. “That’s how I feel.”
The night began innocently enough.
Green was in the driveway he shares with a friend and neighbor, working on a car.
According to the lawsuit, Green heard a car crash at a nearby intersection. The occupants of the car were being chased by police. One of the suspects ran into Green’s yard and pointed a gun at the off-duty officer.
Green pulled out his department-issued gun and yelled: ‘Police! Drop your gun!’ the suit alleges. The suspect ran, and Green started to give chase. Another officer told Green to get to the ground and drop his gun, which he did, the lawsuit says. That officer told Green to “shut the hell up and stay on the ground,” when Green tried to identify himself as an officer.
The detective at the scene recognized his colleague and asked Green to grab his gun and come talk to him, the lawsuit says. That’s when he was shot by Tanner, the lawsuit alleges.
The wound on his right forearm is marked by a scar. His other wounds are harder to see.
“I was depressed. My wife was depressed. My kids were depressed,” Green says. “Their trust in police officers is shot.”
To some degree, so is Green’s.
He sees the union that was supposed to have his back, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, holding fundraisers for indicted white cops, while doing virtually nothing for him. He has a GoFundMe page. He’s had to beg various service organizations for help, even for little things like when his kids needed dressers. He’s about to lose his home to foreclosure. The city hasn’t processed his pension yet, holding off because, Khazaeli says, of a mysterious second police report on the incident that is being kept secret.
The police department has made it clear to him that there are separate standards for black officers and white ones.
“I’m at a loss for words for how I’ve been treated,” Green says. “It’s kind of shocking to find out that what you’ve done for the department doesn’t matter anymore.”
Had the suspect who pointed a gun at him fired, instead of a fellow cop, Green might have been hailed as a hero. Instead he’s just the black cop who got shot by a white cop; the black cop whom the acting chief lied about; the black cop who kept quiet for two years while some of his former white colleagues posted untruths about him on social media sites.
“It’s kind of an eye-opener what you find out about the department,” Green says. “The people you think will come check on you who don’t. The department creates a separation. It makes me feel like less of an officer.”
Green’s happy about one thing, though.
“I’m glad that God has spared my life,” he says. “He could have kept shooting.”
A St. Louis police officer who was shot while off duty by a fellow cop in 2017 filed a federal lawsuit Monday, alleging abuse by his own department and offering new details into the controversial shooting.