ST. LOUIS • A lawyer for the family of VonDerrit Myers Jr., who was killed by an off-duty police officer, publicly disclosed the patrolman’s name this week and said his comments on social media show political and racial biases that reflect upon the shooting.
The officer’s name is listed on an evidence envelope that was inadvertently included with Myers’ body when it was delivered to the funeral home, said Jermaine Wooten, one of the family’s lawyers.
Police have not released the name, pending a “threat assessment.” The department declined to comment on the disclosure.
Brian Millikan, the lawyer representing the officer involved in the shooting, would not confirm or deny the name provided by Wooten — Jason H. Flanery — but the Post-Dispatch verified it independently.
Police said Myers, 18, was killed after firing at the officer. The family said witnesses told their investigator that Myers, who was black, had no weapon and died begging the white officer for his life.
Wooten noted online posts attributed to Flanery that call President Barack Obama “Nobama” and say that in a speech by Michelle Obama, “She looks drunk, high, and dumb as hell.” The lawyer said repeated disparaging remarks about blacks in Flanery’s postings reflected a “strong negatively biased view of African-Americans.”
He also cited Flanery’s online criticism of liberals and homosexuality. The lawyer complained that “right-wing conservatives” have not traditionally been “the friendliest” to people such as Myers.
Wooten said that photos on an Instagram site, showing Flanery’s Marine, police and SWAT training, belie the claim that Myers pulled a gun and fired three shots before the officer could respond.
The lawyer said the Myers family released the name out of frustration that the department did not, and in hopes of hearing from others who may have had negative encounters with Flanery.
Millikan, emphasizing that he was not acknowledging the identity of his client, responded: “I’ve said all along that this policeman has military experience and that’s one reason he’s alive.”
He continued, “The political view of the officer that was involved in this doesn’t change any of the facts that happened. Whether he’s a liberal or a conservative or a Whig or a Tea Party member, it doesn’t change what happened that evening. And that is: Myers had a gun and he used it and he tried to murder this policeman.”
Full results of the police investigation have not been revealed.
The Myers shooting happened in the 4100 block of Shaw Boulevard about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 as Flanery patrolled, off-duty but in uniform, for a private security company employed by a residents’ association. Officials said that he was driving a marked security car when he spotted Myers and two other young men who ran — and that Myers grabbed his waistband as if he had a gun.
Police said Myers fired several shots that missed and was killed by return fire. Officials said that gunshot residue indicated Myers had fired a gun, and that bullets recovered at the scene had been fired from the pistol found near him. Officials also said social media pictures show Myers posing previously with what appears to be the same gun.
Wooten said social media provided insight to Flanery as well.
He said online pictures showed “a guy who is actually in love with weaponry.” More problematic, Wooten said, are comments on YouTube videos. In those, Flanery criticizes liberals and posts comments such as, “Conservatives are better. At everything.”
Flanery’s Instagram account showed pictures of him in the Marines and a video of him in civilian clothes, firing a fully automatic rifle. He praises family and farm life and posted comments such as “runyourgunnotyourmouth.” He also wrote, “I’ve been blessed with the ability to be exactly who I wanted to be when I grew up,” followed by the hashtags “lawman” and “Marines.”
Flanery, 32, on the force for six years, also posted comments on videos of police actions, including a shooting in New York. One comment: “And the moral of the story is ... if you shoot at men with guns they are going to shoot you back. And probably a lot.”
Wooten said, “That says to me, if someone has a gun ... he is going to continue to fire shots at that person until he is dead. Meaning if you fire one shot at me, I’ll fire 100 at you.”
The lawyer noted that Flanery was arrested on a weapons charge while he was in high school.
Court documents show that Flanery was charged with felony unlawful use of a weapon and later pleaded guilty of attempted unlawful use, a misdemeanor, and was fined $300 and ordered to take alcohol counseling.
According to a Chesterfield police report, Flanery was a student at Parkway West High School on March 22, 2001, when a teacher spotted someone throwing a beer can and cigarette out of a car. Police searched the vehicle and found a wooden baton and four unopened beer cans in the car, and Flanery admitted having two throwing knives in the glove compartment.
Wooten suggested that Flanery’s old case had “a very interesting parallel” to that of Myers, who faced his own weapons charge in June after a police chase in which a pistol was recovered.
“After paying the fine, (Flanery) moves on in his life,” Wooten said. But he said the encounter with Flanery “kind of shot down VonDerrit’s opportunity for redemption. We don’t know what this kid could have made of life.”
Millikan, the officer’s lawyer, reacted by saying, “If Myers wanted to turn his life around, first off, don’t carry a stolen gun, don’t carry it on the street ... don’t point it at the police and don’t fire it at the police. Had he done all those things, maybe he would have had a chance to turn his life around.”
Christine Byers of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.